Sunday, May 08, 2016

Coral Deaths Threaten Coasts with Erosion, Flooding

Coral reefs protect Caribbean coastline from erosion and floods caused by waves. (Credit: Guillén Pérez/Flickr) Click to Enlarge.
As coral reefs the world over bleach from warming waters, dissolve from acidification and are attacked by diseases and pests, scientists are discovering the critical roles that they play in breaking destructive swells before they reach coastlines.

Coral reefs reduce the heights of waves by a little more than two-thirds on average worldwide before they crash over coastlines, research published this week showed.

“Coral reefs are incredibly important,” said Mike Beck, a Nature Conservancy and University of California, Santa Cruz marine scientist who helped analyze a global body of research dealing with the wave-tempering powers of individual shoreline habitats.  “They break that wave energy.”

Published in the journal PLOS One, the research illuminates a hidden cost of the ongoing losses of reefs that shelter shorelines throughout balmy coastal regions.
Reducing impacts from fishing, pollution and other biological stresses can help corals recover from bleaching and storms.  So, too, would slowing global warming, which countries are aiming to do through a United Nations treaty that encourages voluntary pollution reductions.
Despite the many maladies afflicting reefs, Beck says they’re in “better shape” than other coastal ecosystems, such as mangroves, hundreds of thousands of acres of which continue to be bulldozed or chopped down worldwide every decade.

“What we’ve seen from recent work on coral reefs is that if you manage other stressors well, we can get reefs to recover,” Beck said.  “We found if you reduced fishing and you reduced pollution, that the reefs bounce back.  They’re adapting, as well.  They’re fast-adapting organisms.”

Read more at Coral Deaths Threaten Coasts with Erosion, Flooding

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