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Rising Sea Levels, Sea Floor Erosions Could Negatively Affect Coral Reefs, Coastal Communities

Apr 21, 2017 11:05 AM EDT
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Coral Reefs
Rising sea levels, partnered by sea floor erosions, have already increased the water depths more than what scientists previously thought.
(Photo : Donald Miralle/Getty Images)

A new study by the US Geological Survey revealed that coral reefs are having a hard time adjusting to the increasing water depths brought by rising sea levels and sea floor erosion,

The study, published in the journal Biogeosciences, showed that the rising sea levels, partnered by sea floor erosions, have already increased the water depths more than what scientists previously thought. With the rising sea level alone, the scientists estimate a 0.5- to 1-meter increase in water depth in the next century .However, factoring in sea floor erosions, the researchers predicted the water depth to increase by two to eight times more than what was estimated with rising sea levels alone.

"Our measurements show that seafloor erosion has already caused water depths to increase to levels not predicted to occur until near the year 2100," said Kimberly Yates, a biogeochemist at USGS' St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center and lead author of the study, in a press release.

For the study, the researchers gathered detailed sea floor measurements of five large coral reef tracts in Florida, the Caribbean and Hawai'i that was taken by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) between 1934 and 1982. The researchers then compared these measurements with the surveys conducted by the USGS Lidar Program and the US Army Corps of Engineers from the late 1990s to the 2000s.

Using a computer model based on elevation changes, the researchers calculated the volume of sea floor materials lost in five coral reef systems. Overall, the sea floor elevation has decreased at all sites, ranging from 0.09 meter to 0.8 meter.

Large amounts of sands, corals and other sea floor materials were lost due to erosions. In one of the coral reef site in Hawaii, the materials lost due to erosion amounted to 81 million cubic meters of sand, rock and other material.

With lots of coral reef systems being lost to rising sea levels and sea floor erosions, the researchers warned that it can greatly affect people living in coastal communities. Coral reef systems are known for their ecological and economic value. Corals serve as habitat for many species of fishes. Additionally, corals act as natural barrier against storms, waves and erosions.

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