Keep up or drown: adjustment of western Pacific coral reefs to sea-level rise in the 21st century

Since the Mid-Holocene, some 5000 years ago, coral reefs in the Pacific Ocean have been vertically constrained by sea level. Contemporary sea-level rise is releasing these constraints, providing accommodation space for vertical reef expansion. Here, the researchers show that Porites microatolls, from reef-flat environments in Palau (western Pacific Ocean), are ‘keeping up’ with contemporary sea-level rise. Measurements of 570 reef-flat Porites microatolls at 10 locations around Palau revealed recent vertical skeletal extension (78±13 mm) over the last 6–8 years, which is consistent with the timing of the recent increase in sea level.

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