Introduction to Reef Ecosystems and Their Evolution

Part of the Topics in Geobiology book series (TGBI, volume 17)


Living reefs are geologically and biologically a conspicuous ecosystem and one undeniably important both quantitatively and qualitatively. Reefs are restricted to tropical and subtropical settings primarily on eastern trunks of continents or western parts of oceans, and today range between 20° to 30° north and south of the equator. Indeed, the very word “reef” usually invokes images of warm trade winds, swaying palm trees, tropical coral seas with coral sand islands, and the crash of the surf on a rocky edifice. Living reefs, and the rocky ramparts they produce, are sizable. Today they cover about 15% of the total amount of shallow sea floor of ocean basins with a surface area of over 600,000 km2. Reefs require warm, well-lighted, shallow water marine conditions and can be found growing on top of volcanic islands and on the shallow shelf adjacent to continents. Ancient reefs are well known but they do not always resemble living counterparts so closely.


Coral Reef Mass Extinction Middle Triassic Scleractinian Coral Rugose Coral 
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© Academic/Plenum Publishers, New York 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of GeologyThe University of MontanaMissoulaUSA

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