Research Reveals Dying Coral Reefs Are A Bigger Threat To Coast Lines Than Rising Sea Levels

In research that was published in Science Advances, it was revealed that the death of coral reefs is a more significant factor in the erosion of tropical coastlines than rising levels.

University of Queensland lead researcher Daniel Harris revealed that the tropical coastlines are at a greater immediate risk of erosion from increases in wave heights due to the loss of live corals. As waves build heading to the coastline, reef systems act as a barrier in buffering the waves as they head to the shore.

“The study shows that you don’t need higher sea levels for there to be coastal erosion, just the loss of healthy coral reefs,” said Harris.

Alessio Rovere, an adjunct scientist who is based at the MARUM Center for Marine Environmental Sciences of the University of Bremen and the Leibniz Centre for Tropical Research, also assisted in the research.

“We examined wave processes at coral reefs in Moorea and Tahiti in French Polynesia, and modeled future wave heights near the coastline by changing variables such as coral reef health and sea level,” Rovere said.

“The findings suggest that actively maintaining the health of coral reefs could reduce some of the negative impacts of sea level rise on tropical coastlines.

Harris said the study showed that authorities and scientists-need to adjust the methods of determining the erosion risk on tropical coastlines to include measurements of the health of coral reefs.

Coral reefs have been dying at a rapid rate due a variety of issues including coral bleaching, pollution run-off, and invasive species.

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