Coral Reefs Need to Outgrow Sea-Level Rise

Written by on July 29, 2015 in Coral Reefs, Marine Life

A new study reveals that important Pacific coral reefs could grow quickly enough to keep up with rising sea levels.

Coral reef in Palau.

Coral reef in Palau. Photo credit: NOAA.

Researchers from Florida Institute of Technology found that first evidence that “well-managed reefs will be able to keep up with sea-level rise through vertical growth,” but only if ocean temperatures stabilize. If the waters warm too quickly, the corals still won’t stand much of a chance.

To make this a reality, carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere must stay below 670 ppm (parts per million). To put that in perspective, today’s CO2 levels are around 400 ppm. Researchers set the cap at 670 ppm because that represents an ocean temperature increase of about 3.5°F, beyond which even the healthiest of reefs couldn’t survive.

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

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Copyright © 2015 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.

About the Author

About the Author: Emily Tripp is the Publisher and Editor of She holds marine science and biology degrees from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and a Master of Advanced Studies degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. When she's not writing about marine science, she's probably running around outside or playing with her dog. .


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