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The Biology of Coral Reefs$
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Charles R. C. Sheppard, Simon K. Davy, and Graham M. Pilling

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780198566359

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198566359.001.0001

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Coral Reefs – Biodiverse and Productive Tropical Ecosystems

Coral Reefs – Biodiverse and Productive Tropical Ecosystems

Chapter:
(p.1) 1 Coral Reefs – Biodiverse and Productive Tropical Ecosystems
Source:
The Biology of Coral Reefs
Author(s):

Charles R. C. Sheppard

Simon K. Davy

Graham M. Pilling

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198566359.003.0001

Coral reefs are the ocean's richest ecosystem in terms of biodiversity and productivity. They are restricted to tropical waters where conditions of salinity, temperature and sedimentation are suitable. Where they grow, their main benthic organisms deposit substantial limestone skeletons, such that they effectively make their own habitat which sustains their dynamic nature and supports the wide range of species which inhabit them. Reefs grow to the low tide level, thus providing a breakwater, but the richest parts lie 5–20 metres below the surface where light is still sufficient but where sediment and turbulence are not severe. Reefs may occur as narrow fringes bordering a continental coast, to huge offshore barriers of corals, to series of atolls that support entire nations; the biogenic nature of corals is enormously important to mankind.

Keywords:   fringing reefs, barrier reefs, reef flat, atolls, biodiversity, ecosystem value, limestone, biogenic rock, calcareous algae

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