July 22, 2015 - The coral reefs that have protected Pacific Islanders from storm waves for thousands of years could grow rapidly enough to keep up with escalating sea levels if ocean temperatures do not rise too quickly, according to a new study from Florida Institute of Technology. The study, published Wednesday in the journal Royal Society Open Science, provides the first evidence that well-managed reefs will be able to keep up with sea-level rise through vertical growth. But that can happen only if carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere stay below 670 parts-per million (ppm). Carbon dioxide is the principal greenhouse gas responsible for most of global warming, which in turn increases ocean temperatures. Today, the level of carbon dioxide is 400 ppm. Beyond 670 ppm – which represents a 3.5 degree Fahrenheit ocean temperature increase and could be reached within the next 100 years – even healthy reefs will not be able keep up. "Reefs will continue to keep up with sea-level rise if we reduce our emission of greenhouse gases," said Florida Tech’s Rob van Woesik, a professor in the Department of Biological Sciences. "If reefs lose their capacity to keep up with sea-level rise they will drown."
FIT Press Release
Royal Society Open Science Journal Article