In DepthMARINE BIOLOGY

Scientists track Florida's vanishing barrier reef

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Science  26 Apr 2019:
Vol. 364, Issue 6438, pp. 319
DOI: 10.1126/science.364.6438.319

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Summary

Around the world, warming oceans are killing coral. In Florida, Lauren Toth, a coral geologist at the U.S. Geological Survey, has found that heat-induced bleaching is just the latest in a millennialong series of insults, which have brought the reef's growth to a standstill and left it vulnerable to erosion and rising seas. As a result, the barrier reef—the third longest in the world—is not simply dying. It appears to be vanishing. At stake is a 320-kilometer-long bulwark that protects the Keys from waves while providing habitat for fish and a lure for tourists. Recent measurements by Toth and her colleagues have confirmed that the coral is eroding, in some places by several millimeters per year. Now, she and others are surveying the entire reef to learn how fast, and where, it is being lost.