Reef Biology and Geology – Not Just a Matter of Scale



The geological distribution and developmental history of coral reefs have been largely controlled by physical factors such as plate tectonics, sea-level changes, wave energy, salinity, light, temperature, nutrients, sediment, and antecedent topography. Although the geological and biological patterns have generally been consistent over the past 12,000 years, sub-millennial intervals of variation remind us that long-term patterns provide only part of the picture. Looking forward, changes in seawater temperature, storm intensity, aragonite saturation state and pH may bring a major shift in the balance between carbonate production, destruction and export. While rising sea level alone will probably not significantly change reef communities or over-top low reef islands, even small increases of water depth will have disproportionate effects on the wave energy passing over the reef crest. Moreover, the impacts of increasing storminess will rival declining coral cover as a major control over the carbonate budget of coral reefs in the coming century. Understanding what is to come will require a perspective that is impossible from any single discipline.


Carbonate budget Development Holocene Accretion Zonation 


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of GeologyOberlin CollegeOberlinUSA

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