Erosion catching up with Caribbean reefs, says study

Sydney, Feb 11 (IANS) Many Caribbean coral reefs are either going into decline or being eroded, say researchers.

Peter Mumby, professor from the University of Queensland (UQ)'s School of Biological Science and study co-author, said these findings could affect millions of people who benefit from reef structures.

"Reef structures provide benefits such as being fishery habitats for seafood; they are used for recreational diving adventures; and often provide a natural barrier to storm surge," Mumby was quoted as saying by the journal Nature Communications.

Chris Perr, professor from the University of Exeter (UK), who led the study, says: "Our estimates of current rates of reef growth in the Caribbean are extremely alarming."

"Our findings clearly show that recent ecological declines are now suppressing the growth potential of reefs in the region, and that this will have major implications for their ability to respond positively to future sea level rises," Perr adds.

Coral reefs build their structures by both producing and accumulating calcium carbonate, and this is essential for the maintenance and continued vertical growth capacity of reefs, according to a Queensland statement.

The researchers have found that the addition of new carbonate to the Caribbean coral reefs has dropped steeply - in some habitats by as much as 70 percent.

Coral reefs form some of the planet's most biologically diverse ecosystems, and provide valuable services to humans and wildlife.