Loss of coral reef growth capacity to track future increases in sea level

Perry, C and Alvarez-Filip, L and Graham, Nicholas Anthony James and Mumby, PJ and Wilson, SK and Kench, PS and Manzello, DP and Morgan, KM and Slangen, ABA and Thomson, DP and Janchowski-Hartley, F and Smithers, SG and Steneck, RS and Carlton, R and Edinger, EE and Enochs, IC and Estrada-Saldivar, N and Haywood, MDE and Kolodziej, G and Murphy, GN and Perez-Cervantes, E and Suchley, A and Valentino, L and Boenish, R and Wilson, M and Macdonald, C (2018) Loss of coral reef growth capacity to track future increases in sea level. Nature, 558. 396–400. ISSN 0028-0836

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Sea-level rise (SLR) is predicted to elevate water depths above coral reefs and to increase coastal wave exposure as ecological degradation limits vertical reef growth, but projections lack data on interactions between local rates of reef growth and sea level rise. Here we calculate the vertical growth potential of more than 200 tropical western Atlantic and Indian Ocean reefs, and compare these against recent and projected rates of SLR under different Representative Concentration Pathway (RCP) scenarios. Although many reefs retain accretion rates close to recent SLR trends, few will have the capacity to track SLR projections under RCP4.5 scenarios without sustained ecological recovery, and under RCP8.5 scenarios most reefs are predicted to experience mean water depth increases of more than 0.5 m by 2100. Coral cover strongly predicts reef capacity to track SLR, but threshold cover levels that will be necessary to prevent submergence are well above those observed on most reefs. Urgent action is thus needed to mitigate climate, sea-level and future ecological changes in order to limit the magnitude of future reef submergence.

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06 Dec 2018 14:18
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26 Feb 2024 00:38