Reefs serve as a buffer, protecting shorelines from currents, waves, and storms.
Healthy coral reefs have rough surfaces and complex structures that dissipate much of the force of incoming waves, helping to prevent loss of life, property damage, and erosion. Up to 90 percent of the energy from wind-generated waves is absorbed by reefs, based on the physical and ecological characteristics of the reef and the abundance of the adjacent seagrass and mangrove ecosystems.
Recessed large polyps of Goniastrea sp., commonly known as brain star or honeycomb coral, viewed from the side. Live coral specimen in artificial seawater imaged with Olympus MVX Fluorescent Macroscope and filters from Chroma Technology.
James H. Nicholson, NOAA.