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Insurance for Georgia Saltmarshes? Research is Underway



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Conservationists and academics are researching ways to insure sensitive salt marshes in Georgia against degradation and loss, perhaps with parametric policies similar to those used to cover some coral reefs.

Georgia Public Broadcasting reported that The Nature Conservancy has teamed up with the University of Georgia to appraise the value of coastal salt marshes and determine if insurance could help protect them and fund restoration and mitigation. Research has shown that Georgia’s 9,000 acres of salt marshes provide valuable ecosystems and protect against storms – but are losing ground to development.

“If we can quantify that, that’s when we can really start to explore innovative funding solutions for protecting and restoring that marsh — one of those potentially being insurance,” said Liz Fly, an ocean conservationist at The Nature Conservancy,” GPB reported.

Environmental insurance may sound like a novel concept. But it has been used for a number of years for coral reefs in Mexico’s Yucatan. The Yucatan program is managed by a public trust and utilizes parametric insurance. Some payouts begin when degradation milestones are met, including winds and damage from storms.

“The insurance industry — their own interests have to be met,” Yukiko Hashida, an environmental economist at the University of Georgia who is working on the study, told the new network. “They have their own shareholders and stakeholders. I’m interested in what they need, what they get out of this.”

Georgia is home to an estimated one third of all the salt marshes on the East Coast, the university has said. If insurance is deemed to be a good fit, the researchers hope to apply their findings to other vulnerable sites across the country.

Photo: Tidal marsh at Sunrise (Georgia Department of Natural Resources)

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