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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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Consequences to Reefs of Changing Environmental Stress

Consequences to Reefs of Changing Environmental Stress

Chapter:
(p.255) 9 Consequences to Reefs of Changing Environmental Stress
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/9780198566359.003.0009

A stable state in a healthy reef is a dynamic equilibrium, maintained by interactions between the different trophic groups and by a balance between growth and erosion from weather and eroding species. If the stable, coral dominated state is perturbed beyond critical points, the system switches to an alternative state, perhaps dominated by macroalgae, which itself is relatively stable. A hysteresis effect means that removal of the stresses that caused the switch in the first place may not be sufficient to reverse the condition back to that of a healthy reef. Changes to the main architectural species especially are particularly difficult to reverse, as are changes which encourage bioeroding species. Trophic balances are lost and results include loss of productivity and loss of wave-breaking effects, causing shoreline erosion and loss of productivity which is of benefit to humans.

Keywords:   stable states, phase shifts, hysteresis effect, structural species, architectural species, bioeroding species, trophic balances

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