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The Biology of Coral Reefs$
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Charles Sheppard, Simon Davy, Graham Pilling, and Nicholas Graham

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780198787341

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198787341.001.0001

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Coral reefs

Coral reefs

Biodiverse and productive tropical ecosystems

(p.1) 1 Coral reefs
The Biology of Coral Reefs

Charles R. C. Sheppard

Simon K. Davy

Graham M. Pilling

Nicholas A. J. Graham

Oxford University Press

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, an area where light is still sufficient but where sediment and turbulence are not severe. Reefs may occur as narrow fringing reefs bordering a continental coast, as huge offshore barrier reefs or as series of atolls that support entire nations; the biogenic nature of corals is enormously important to mankind.

Keywords:   fringing reef, barrier reef, atoll, biodiversity, limestone

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