dry tortugas loggerhead key 640x400
Dry Tortugas Loggerhead Key Coral reef with Loggerhead Key Lighthouse in the background. Loggerhead Key, Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida. The Nature Conservancy is working to restore healthy coral reefs along Florida’s unique reef track that runs between the Dry Tortugas and Fort Lauderdale. © Carlton Ward Jr.

Land & Water Stories

Mapping Ocean Wealth

Understanding the value of our ocean,

Tourism for Tomorrow
Tourism for Tomorrow In 2017, Mapping Ocean Wealth was awarded the Tourism for Tomorrow Innovation Prize, for developing an innovative methodology to map the tourism value of coral reefs. © TNC

The ocean represents an estimated $1.5 trillion in global value added, yearly. Economies globally depend on a healthy ocean— from large-scale fisheries to subsistence fishermen; from international luxury hotel chains to the 3 billion people dependent on seafood as their primary source of protein. With this incredible value in mind, we must work to better understand how and where we depend on nature; and harness scientific knowledge, innovative thinking, new technology and approaches to ensure the continuity of these benefits. Only then can we truly improve and increase investment in marine conservation, restoration and management.

We all depend on the ocean, and are collectively responsible for its well-being—understanding its value, and thus the cost of inaction, is crucial in insuring we treat the ocean like any other asset we depend on.

As the saying goes, ‘you cannot manage what you cannot measure.’ With our Mapping Ocean Wealth initiative, we’re using innovative technology and approaches to showcase not just that we need nature, but how much we need it, and where. The Nature Conservancy’s goal is to calculate and map what the ocean does for us today, so we can make smart investments and decisions affecting what the ocean can do for us tomorrow.

Through mapping our ocean wealth, we move from expert-informed global models of habitat value to specific local maps. Both enable us to evaluate nature as an asset, creating critical, actionable information that can be translated directly into the engineering, financial and policy language that can inform and improve coastal and ocean planning, conservation, development and investment decisions.

The Conservancy’s work builds on rapidly advancing ocean science and our expertise, working across scales and with multiple partners on coral reefs, oyster reefs, seagrasses, saltmarshes and mangrove forests. We have compiled a detailed understanding of what drives the value of particular ecosystems and we will continue to explore the opportunities for applying this knowledge to improve coastal and ocean management at both local and regional scales.

  • Coastal wetlands sequester enough CO2 each year to offset the burning of over 1 billion barrels of oil
  • In some areas, one hectare of seagrass can store 4x the carbon captured by an average terrestrial forest
  • Healthy and well-managed coral reefs generate 5-10 tons of fish per square km/ year
  • Coral reefs reduce 97% of wave energy- acting as a barrier from storms
  • Mangroves reduce 66% of wave height easing erosion and flood risk
  • Oyster reefs save communities $85,000 per year per hectare when used in place of artificial breakwaters
  • Coral reefs drive up to $36 Billion per year globally in tourism revenue. 

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