By 2100, damaged corals may let waves twice as tall as today’s reach coasts | Science News

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By 2100, damaged corals may let waves twice as tall as today’s reach coasts

Conserving reefs is key to defending coastal communities, simulations suggest

By
1:41pm, March 5, 2018

BREAKING WAVE  Healthy coral reefs are an important buffer against beach erosion and inundation from ocean waves. That’s true even in a world with rising sea levels.

A complex coral reef full of nooks and crannies is a coastline’s best defense against large ocean waves. But coral die-offs over the next century could allow taller waves to penetrate the corals’ defenses, simulations suggest. A new study finds that at some Pacific Island sites, waves reaching the shore could be more than twice as high as today’s by 2100.

The rough, complex structures of coral reefs dissipate wave energy through friction, calming waves before they reach the shore. As corals die due to warming oceans (SN: 2/3/18, p. 16), the overall complexity of the reef also diminishes, leaving a coast potentially more exposed. At the same time, rising sea levels due to climate change increasingly threaten low-lying coastal communities with inundation and beach erosion — and stressed corals may not be able to grow vertically fast enough to

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