As Florida recovers from the devastation caused by Hurricane Irma, scientists are suggesting that the severity of the damage was made worse due to the degradation of coral reefs in the vicinity.
As Florida steadily recovers from the devastation caused by Hurricane Irma, scientists have suggested that the escalated severity of damage was due to the degradation of the coral reefs in the vicinity.
Scientists estimate that due to raising water temperatures and past bleaching events, less than 10 percent of the coral reefs in the 360-mile Florida Reef Tract is covered by living coral. This means that a substantial storm buffer is missing.
Many scientific authorities have also highlighted the importance of corals in reducing the risk of flooding during storms.
According to the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, reefs "contribute to protecting the shoreline from the destructive action of storm surges and cyclones."
Michael Beck, lead scientist at the Nature Conservancy, said that the main effect of coral reefs on flood reduction comes from wave breaking. "It's acting like a submerged breakwater offshore, breaking those waves, reducing and dissipating that wave energy offshore, so that then only tiny little amounts of wave energy come onshore," he elaborated.
Of course, hurricanes do cause widespread destruction and damage whenever they occur. Even a healthy flourishing coral reef system won't be able to prevent hurricanes from causing damage and floods. However, if the coral reef cover is degraded, the protection it offers is reduced.