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The potential for coral reef restoration to mitigate coastal flooding as sea levels rise

April 21, 2023

The ability of reefs to protect coastlines from storm-driven flooding hinges on their capacity to keep pace with sea-level rise. Here, we show how and whether coral restoration could achieve the often-cited goal of reversing the impacts of coral-reef degradation to preserve this essential function. We combined coral-growth measurements and carbonate-budget assessments of reef-accretion potential at Buck Island Reef, U.S. Virgin Islands, with hydrodynamic modeling to quantify future coastal flooding under various coral-restoration, sea-level rise, and storm scenarios. Our results provide guidance on how restoration of Acropora palmata, if successful, could mitigate the most extreme impacts of coastal flooding by reversing projected trajectories of reef erosion and allowing reefs to keep pace with the ~0.5 m of sea-level rise expected by 2100 with moderate carbon-emissions reductions. This highlights the potential long-term benefits of pursuing coral-reef restoration alongside climate-change mitigation to support the persistence of essential coral-reef ecosystem services.

Publication Year 2023
Title The potential for coral reef restoration to mitigate coastal flooding as sea levels rise
DOI 10.1038/s41467-023-37858-2
Authors Lauren Toth, Curt Storlazzi, Elizabeth M. Whitcher, Ilsa B. Kuffner, Ellen Quataert, Johan Reyns, Robert T. McCall, Anastasios Stathakopoulos, Zandy Hillis-Starr, Nathaniel H. Holloway, Kristin A. Ewen, Clayton G. Pollock, Tess Code, Richard B. Aronson
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Nature Communications
Index ID 70246693
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center