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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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The main reef builders and space occupiers

The main reef builders and space occupiers

(p.35) 2 The main reef builders and space occupiers
The Biology of Coral Reefs

Charles R. C. Sheppard

Simon K. Davy

Graham M. Pilling

Nicholas A. J. Graham

Oxford University Press

Corals are the main reef builders on tropical reefs. They make their own substrate, much of which remains as consolidated rock, the remainder becoming broken down to form extensive sediment beds. Soft corals, sea fans and sponges are other major occupiers of substrate but deposit only minimal quantities of rock. All are important ecological components of coral reefs, although the greatest biodiversity of macrofauna are found amongst the fish, cryptic invertebrates and microorganisms. Amongst the algae, the microalgae symbiotic with corals are of key importance in the nutrition of the reef, but macroalgae are generally scarce on healthy reefs, partly due to grazing. Some algae generate large quantities of limestone and assist in reef construction. Growth and reduction by bioerosion are generally closely balanced in a healthy reef, and reef growth depends, of course, on growth exceeding erosion by a small margin.

Keywords:   Coral, soft coral, sea fan, sponge, bioerosion

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