Besides global warming increasing hurricane intensity, its impact on coral reefs is making this natural wave barrier more fragile.
Coral reefs have been under threat in the last years. In the latest assessment done in 2014 by the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network, found that 19% of world coral reefs are dead. They died because of warming sea-surface temperatures which causes bleaching and seawater acidification.
In Australia, 30% to 50% of the Great Barrier Reef is already dead, according to findings published last month by the James Cook University, the University of Queensland and the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Also. the recently discovered reef in the Amazon river is under threat because of oil drilling. If threats continue to endanger reefs, they could disappear within the next 40 years.
But what's surprising is reefs are important in for preventing the damages hurricanes and tropical storms cause. They reduce their power by being natural barriers. When passing over a coral reef wave energy is reduced by 75%-95% according to Endangered Species International.
Additionally, they protect the coastline from erosion, prevent the damage to mangrove forests and seagrass beds and infrastructure. An estimated of 150,000 km of coastline have received some protection from reefs.
With climate change causing an increase in global temperatures tropical storms and hurricanes are expected to increase.
They gain their energy from warm ocean temperatures and according to the US Environmental Protection Agency, sea surface temperature has increased in the last three decades.
With increased hurricane activity and less natural barriers, coastlines will be in greater threat. Also, more storms will mean more harm for the coral reefs, they won't successfully recover and rebuild plus with the extra stress from bleaching they'll be less effective in protecting us from wave energy.
Meanwhile scientists are working on ways to help reefs survive.
In Hawaii's Coconut Island, reefs are under assisted evolution. Samples of corals that are still thriving are taken into the lab and put them under more stressful conditions, hoping they'll adapt and pass their traits to their offspring after being transplanted back to their environment.
Also, artificial coral reefs have been designed by a London Royal College of Art's graduate. When placed in a reef, the coral will slowly dissolve releasing a solution to counteract the acidity in the water. This project is still in testing.