The coral reef structure buffers shorelines against waves, storms, and floods, helping to prevent loss of life, property damage, and erosion. When reefs are damaged or destroyed, the absence of this natural barrier can increase the damage to coastal communities from normal wave action and violent storms.
Several million people live in U.S. coastal areas adjacent to or near coral reefs. Some coastal development is required to provide necessary infrastructure for coastal residents and the growing coastal tourism industry.
However, the impacts of coastal development (e.g., marina, dock, and bridge construction, dredging to replenish beaches) and polluted runoff from coastal areas can damage coral reefs over the long term. Therefore, the health of coral reefs depends on sustainable coastal development practices that protect sensitive coral ecosystems and the creatures that reside there.