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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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Consequences to reefs of changing environmental stress

Consequences to reefs of changing environmental stress

(p.266) 9 Consequences to reefs of changing environmental stress
The Biology of Coral Reefs

Charles R. C. Sheppard

Simon K. Davy

Graham M. Pilling

Nicholas A. J. Graham

Oxford University Press

A stable state in a healthy reef is a dynamic equilibrium which is maintained by interactions between different trophic groups and by a balance between growth and erosion, which is caused by weather and eroding species. If the stable, coral-dominated state is perturbed beyond a critical point, the system undergoes a phase shift and switches to an alternative state, perhaps one dominated by macroalgae; this alternative state itself is then 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 structural species, particularly the main architectural species, are particularly difficult to reverse, as are changes which encourage bioeroding species. Trophic balances are lost and results include loss of productivity and a loss of wave-breaking effects, which in turn causes shoreline erosion and further loss of productivity.

Keywords:   stable state, phase shift, hysteresis effect, structural species, architectural species, bioeroding species, trophic balance

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