A new study has found that a healthy coral reef can lower the damage done by coastal flooding and the destruction of tropical storms dramatically. The reef decline is expected to raise coastal flooding four-fold by the end of the century.
Scientists explained that coral reefs are absorbing the shock of cyclones and reducing their damages significantly. Without corals, coastal communities would have to shell out tens of billions of dollars more to repair the damages, the new study warns.
Coral reefs serve as natural, submerged breakwaters that reduce flooding by breaking waves and reducing wave energy,
explained lead author Michael Beck.
Beck’s team expects damages brought by coastal flooding to increase over the next decades.
Fortunately, not all reefs are at risk, while damaged corals can recover from excess fishing, storms, and bleaching. Nevertheless, there is a trend of “significant losses” when it comes to corals worldwide.
In addition, shallow reefs in coastal areas are being killed globally by dynamite fishing and runoff from human activities. Corals are also getting sick from rising seawater temperatures, which causes bleaching.
Heat Waves Killing Coral Reefs
In 2016, a sudden heat wave decimated 30% of the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. In 2017, another heat wave damaged the reef, but the damage has not yet been fully assessed.
Scientists warn that the planet’s coral reefs could face global die-off if water temperatures rise 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F) above pre-industrial levels.
The Paris Climate Agreement wants to keep global warming below that level, but Earth has warmed by one degree C or more.
The new study unveiled that coral reefs can act as a natural barrier in the way of coastal flooding and storms.
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