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Coral Reefs and Climate Change: Maybe Reefs Could Keep Pace with Sea Rise?

Aug 03, 2015 10:34 PM EDT
Pacific reefs near Palau could grow vertically and protect islands, if we monitor sea temperature change.
There may be hope for the vertical growth of coral reefs.
(Photo : Flickr: NOAA Ocean Explorer)

If carbon levels are limited and we manage coral reefs well, they could grow vertically and maintain pace with rising sea levels. At least, researchers from Florida Institute of Technology say that could very likely happen, and they recently reported their findings in the journal Royal Society Open Science.

The scientists say that if we keep carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere at below 670 parts per million (ppm), ocean temperatures could continue to support those growing coral reefs, as a release noted.

Currently, carbon dioxide is at a level of 440 ppm. Beyond 670 ppm would represent a 3.5 degree Fahrenheit ocean temperature increase, which could be reached within the next 100 years, as the release said.

"Reefs will continue to keep up with sea-level rise if we reduce our emission of greenhouse gases," said Florida Tech's Rob van Woesik, a professor in the Department of Biological Sciences, in the release. "If reefs lose their capacity to keep up with sea-level rise they will drown."

Other researchers on the study, which took place in Palau in the western Pacific Ocean, were from the University of Queensland and the Palau International Coral Reef Center, the release noted. 

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