Oceans

Risks of reef erosion

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Science  26 May 2017:
Vol. 356, Issue 6340, pp. 817
DOI: 10.1126/science.356.6340.817-a

The degradation of coral reefs is deepening their nearshore environments.

PHOTO: K. K. YATES ET AL. BIOGEOSCIENCES 14, 1739 (2017) © EUROPEAN GEOSCIENCES UNION

Coral reefs serve as natural barriers that protect coastal regions from storms and erosion, but climate change, ocean acidification, and other stressors from human activities are increasingly causing coral reefs to degrade. Yates et al. report evidence of seafloor erosion in five coral reef ecosystems in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Caribbean. Comparison with historical data shows that over the past few decades, seafloor elevation has decreased by 0.09 to 0.8 m at the study sites—far more than expected on the basis of model predictions. Together with sea level rise from climate change, the seafloor erosion at these sites results in deeper water and puts coastal populations at increased risk.

Biogeosciences 14, 1739 (2017).

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