Think back on the photos of coral reefs you’ve seen, or, if you’ve been lucky enough to see one in person, the real thing. One thing you’ll note in almost all of them is the extremely clear water. Coral hates suspended sediment, and doesn’t thrive in waters clogged with dirt, debris and other materials. Sadly, sedimentation is on the rise thanks to development and the destruction of wetlands, which normally act like giant traps for sediment, preventing it from reaching the ocean (and, incidentally, preventing loss of valuable topsoil). As sedimentation increases, coral populations suffer.
9. Stormy Waters Ahead
Tropical storms, hurricanes and other rough weather are a fact of nature, but evidence suggests they may be increasing in frequency and severity in response to climate change. Coral reefs can be badly damaged as a result of storm surge, the high, aggressive waves associated with severe storms. Sadly, this doesn’t just damage the coral; it also exposes the shoreline to further damage, because the coral would normally act as a buffer zone to help protect the shore.
10. Rising Sea Levels
Coral is highly sensitive to light levels (one reason it can’t handle sedimentation and algae blooms). As sea levels rise, the amount of available light will decrease around existing reefs. Coral won’t be able to grow under those conditions, and it may begin to die off, which means that it will cease to support the reef and the larger population of organisms that relies on the coral for food and shelter. Formerly diverse areas could become deserts very quickly, and projections suggest that at current predicted rates of sea level rise, many famous coral reefs, such as those in the Caribbean, won’t be able to keep pace.
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