By 2100 destruction of coral reefs may make the waves twice as big and will threaten the coastal settlements.
Currently sea level is rising by more than 3 mm every year. At first glance, this figure seems to be negligible, but it means that in the next decades thousands of people living on the shores may be left without a roof over their heads. Entire countries may cease to exist – island countries located in the Pacific Ocean are mostly endangered.
However, sea level rise is not the main threat. Ocean waves are yet another reason to be worried. So far, considerable part of wave energy was dissipated by coral reefs. Nowadays reefs are being destroyed due to global warming and anthropogenic impact. Moreover, there is a risk that reefs will not grow so fast to be consistent with the sea level. This means that it is likely that in future years coral reefs will not dampen ocean waves as effective as it should be.
The team of researchers from Australia, the USA, Germany, and France have used mathematical modelling technique to find out what exactly is the situation in that regard. Results of the study conducted by them were published in Science Advances journal.
Calculations were done in four locations of French Polynesia by using various scenarios. The most likely scenario shows that wave heights will be 2.4 times greater than they are today. It shall be noted that height increase will be primarily caused by coral reefs degradation and sea level rise.
The results of the study are yet another argument in favor of the need to protect coral reefs for the sake of those, who live in coastal territories.