Study shows direct link between healthy coral reefs and shoreline stability and field-tests an innovative risk-reduction solution that combines engineering with reef restoration.
The catastrophic 2017 hurricane season provided ample demonstrations of the increasing vulnerability of Caribbean populations and infrastructure to natural disasters. Researchers at UC Santa Cruz and the Nature Conservancy have now measured the protective role of coral reefs and field-tested a solution that reduces coastal risks by combining innovative engineering with restoration ecology.
Working in Grenville Bay, Grenada, the researchers showed that degradation of coral reefs is directly linked to shoreline erosion and coastal flooding in parts of the bay. The study, published February 1 in the Journal of Environmental Management, also evaluates one of the first uses of reef restoration as natural infrastructure specifically designed to reduce risks to people and property.
Investigating the link between healthy reefs and shoreline stability, the researchers found that Grenville’s healthy reefs keep more than half of the bay’s coastline intact by reducing the wave energy arriving on shore. In contrast, severe reef degradation is linked with chronic coastal erosion in the northern section of the bay, where the shoreline is disappearing at a rate of nearly two feet every year.
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Image via Tim Calver, University of California Santa Cruz