Hurricane Dorian left mangroves, coral reefs, seagrass beds and forests on Abaco and Grand Bahama in a “critical state”, according to an Inter-American Development Bank report, which noted that the storm resulted in roughly $7 million worth of damage to those ecosystems.
“Wave action, storm surge and high winds have produced partial to severe destruction to mangroves, coral reefs, seagrass beds and forests on both Abaco and Grand Bahama,” the report read.
“As a result, ecosystems were left in a critical state and pre-existent vulnerabilities were exacerbated with an expected decrease in ecosystem services provision in the short and medium-term. These ecosystems are home to a wide variety of species of flora and fauna and provide services that are essential to the development of the country.
“Damage to mangroves, coral reefs, seagrass beds and protected areas account for around $7 million. This damage is a product of impacts on coral reefs, seagrass beds, mangroves, beaches and on the assessment of the effects on infrastructure of protected zones.”
The report, which was released just over a year after Dorian made landfall in The Bahamas as one of the strongest storms recorded in the region, noted the difficulty of assigning a price tag to the environmental assets.
“[T]he value reflected in this damage estimation is only based on a global average of the cost of restoration projects,” it read.
“Numbers could go higher depending on factors such as equipment availability, local workforce, planning and monitoring.”
The report noted that in addition to changes in biodiversity, the disappearance of habitats and the displacement of species, Bahamians who depend on the ecosystem for their livelihoods will also be affected.
“For example, the damage to seagrass beds is likely to have short to medium-term effects (two to four years) on the services they provide to fisheries, which makes the losses represent the most significant public costs,” it read.
“Since ecosystems are crucial to the economy and society in The Bahamas, it is expected that the impacts of the hurricane on their ecosystem services will result in losses of approximately $27 million.
“Additional costs entail the costs of future environmental assessments, organic debris removal, fire control measures and a significant private cost related to the oil spill on Grand Bahama. These costs are estimated to be $102 million.
“These estimates are based on a limited amount of information available at this time and on initial assessments, long term impact studies will be further required. There are also environmental elements that suffered damage (such as water resources) for which there is no economic quantification due to the limited availability of information.”