Rising sea levels can help coral reefs by moderating the extreme and damaging ocean temperature caused by climate change, according to researchers from the University of Western Australia. The study is now available in the journal Science Advances.

The researchers studied the reef habitats around northwestern Australia and the Kimberley, which is known for having some of the largest tides across the globe. They focused on Tallon Island, which has one of the three greatest tidal ranges in the world.

“Tallon is typical of a lot of the reefs where the reef platforms rise out of fairly deep water and the tidal range at the entrance is about 10 metres, so in some parts of the day, you can have tides that are four meters above the reef and then other times it can be four meters below the reef if you look offshore,” says Ryan Lowe from the University of Western Australia. “You essentially get water flowing off the reefs as waterfalls.”

The team explains that the rapid sea level increase can significantly decrease the harsh daily extremes of water temperatures in the reef habitats. Hence, they concluded that the rising sea levels caused by the melting polar ice caps can help regulate this harsh extremes in reef habitats around the world.

When the ocean temperature is cool enough for the reefs, coral bleaching will be avoided. Recently, Australia’s Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) released a report that the Great Barrier Reef has experienced bleaching due to increased temperature.

The Australian Research Council (ARC) Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies also revealed that 35 percent of corals in the northern and central portion of the largest coral reef system in the world are dead. This year is the third time in 18 years that the reef has experienced mass coral bleaching.