A prime reason to conserve coral reefs is to protect coastal cites, communities, and other areas from Tsunamis. Tsunamis have made headlines in the past seven years or so as they destroyed many coastal communities in India in 2004; in Japan this past year (2011); and, in Hawaii and parts of California (USA) in the same Tsunami event as in Japan (2011). So how can we prevent damage from Tsunamis by protecting coral reefs? To answer this, we must describe a Tsunami.
According to the USGS, Tsunamis are ocean waves caused by large earthquakes and landslides that occur near or under the ocean (http://www.usgs.gov/faq/index.php?action=artikel&cat=28&id=871&artlang=en). The waves are not caused by wind and storms. They are generated by the push of large amounts of water from the bottom of the Ocean where an earthquake occurred. The water reaches the surface pushing the surface water out in all directions eventually heading towards shore. The Tsunami waves do not break like regular waves at the beach. They tend to break a lot further inshore as they are moving at such a faster speed than normal waves causing far more damage to the coastline and communities.
Stopping Wave Energy
All waves have energy. Some waves have more than others such as the waves caused by Tsunamis. In fact, Tsunami waves gain more energy and speed as they get closer to land looking fierce to anyone in their way. Tsunami waves cannot be stopped; however, their energy can be reduced. There are natural barriers along coastlines that can reduce the energy of Tsunami waves. One such barrier is a coral reef. Coral Reefs are coastal habitats made of living organisms that are stuck to rock. As waves move over top of the reefs, their energy is diminished. This process came to light in the 2004 Tsunami that devastated India. Studies noted areas were less devastated in areas where the coastline contained coral reefs and other natural coastal areas such as mangrove forests.
Reefs Can Save Lives
The thought of a Tsunami bearing down on any coastline is extremely frightening; however, I would feel better knowing that coastlines are somewhat protected because of natural coastal habitats like coral reefs. For our safety, it is very important that we protect, conserve, and restore coral reefs as they protect us in drastic times.