Valuing U.S. Coral Reefs for Coastal Hazard Risk Reduction and an Introduction to the New Jersey Climate Change Resource Center

underwater coral reef on the ocean floor with sunlight shining through water surface

Department of Civil, Environmental and Ocean Engineering

Location: ABS 301

Speaker: James Shope, PhD, Rutgers University


Dr. James Shope will cover two topics: Rigorously valuing U.S. coral reefs in coastal flooding risk reduction followed by an overview of the New Jersey Climate Change Resource Center. The presence of coral reefs attenuates wave energy nearshore, which helps mitigate flooding from large wave events. However, coral reefs globally are suffering degradation due to climate change and other anthropogenic effects, which reduces their efficacy in limiting wave-driven flooding along the coast. Return level extreme wave conditions were simulated at all U.S. coral reefs to determine flooding with and without the presence of coral reefs. The resultant floodplains were used to compute the annual additional number of people impacted and economic damages sustained by a community with the loss of a coral reef. It was found that annually, more than 18,000 people and more than $1.8 billion are protected within the U.S. due to the presence of coral reefs. This valuation provides the framework to access emergency management funding for coral reef restoration. The New Jersey Climate Change Resource Center (NJCCRC) was established by statute in January 2020 to create and support the use of impartial and actionable science to advance government, public, private, and nongovernmental sector efforts to adapt to, and mitigate, a changing climate. The NJCCRC conducts applied research for New Jersey’s climate-related challenges and provides planning tools, technical guidance, and practical support for addressing climate change in New Jersey. It also connects actionable research to policymakers, planners, communities, and others through outreach, training, and education. Dr. Shope will overview the ongoing work, tools, and programs that the NJCCRC is supporting throughout New Jersey.


Head shot of James Shope smiling, outside in front of trees

Dr. James Shope is an assistant extension specialist in climate services with the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station and the Department of Environmental Sciences at Rutgers University. James received his PhD from the University of California Santa Cruz in Earth and Planetary Sciences specializing in Coastal Processes and climate change hazards to Pacific islands. His postdoctoral research centered on U.S. coastal hazards in collaboration with the USGS and the Nature Conservancy. At Rutgers, he addresses a wide range of climate change impacts and adaptation strategies in New Jersey. In particular, he is interested in how agricultural production, municipal planning, and public health will respond to a warming climate, heavier rainfall, and more frequent flooding. James frequently engages in outreach efforts across New Jersey, including leading resiliency tool trainings, co-authoring public-facing reports, providing climate science resources for k-12 educators, and sharing actionable scientific resources for community planners.