Coral reef growth and future sea levels are increasingly divergent

Avatar By Le Williams | 2 years ago

New research suggests coral reefs face an existential threat from rising water temperatures and extended hazards as calculated sea levels rise, outpacing the velocity in which they are able to produce.

Current growth rates in the Indian Ocean and tropical western Atlantic have moderated balance with modern global sea level rises, demonstrating 6cm during the 19th Century and 19cm during the 20th century.

Studies report forecasts for sea level rise by the end of the 21st Century will exceed coral growth.

Reef growth is already severely hampered by combinations of coral disease, deteriorating water quality and fishing pressure, along with severe impacts from “coral bleaching” caused by climate change.

Lead author, Professor Chris Perry, of the University of Exeter, told The Independent: “One of the most alarming things about the study is the difference between reef growth and future projections being increasingly divergent depending on which awful scenario you look at.

“Even if you compare the rates of growth with the rates of sea level rise we’ve seen over the last 20 years then many reefs are already growing at rates that are below those levels of sea level rise.”

About half of the reefs came into this bracket, “so there’s already a disconnect”, Perry added.

The research team used local reef growth projections in collaboration with sea level predictions based on the most likely future climate scenarios adopted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). He stated, “These provide sea level predictions based on atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations.”

Perry and his team’s research, published in the journal Nature, also sought to understand the impact coral decline could have on species dependent on the coral.

Perry said action needs to happen at both a global and local level to help tackle the issue.