Coral reefs and the shallow seafloor that surrounds them serve as a natural barrier during storms, reducing wave energy thus protecting coastal populations and infrastructure from flooding and erosion. Declining coral reef health over the past couple of decades has caused coral reef and seafloor erosion while sea level has continued to rise, reducing the effectiveness of reefs to serve as natural breakwater.
Strong waves and currents from Hurricane Irma resulted in [X] losses of reef elevation, increasing the risk to coastal communities [by Y statistic]. Projected future degradation of coral reefs are likely to increase losses.
USGS is developing models that predict future losses and the resulting vulnerability of the coastline to waves and storms. Areas of focus include: