"Islands atop coral reefs" NYT crossword answer is:CAYS (4 letters length)
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Atolls are islands that form atop coral reefs, and are often found in tropical and subtropical regions of the world. These islands are typically circular or oval in shape, and are made up of a coral reef that surrounds a central lagoon. Atolls can provide a unique habitat for a variety of marine life, and are often popular tourist destinations due to their stunning beauty. They are also important for coastal protection, as their reefs can help to reduce the impact of storms and waves on the shoreline.