Encyclopedia of Coastal Science

2005 Edition
| Editors: Maurice L. Schwartz

Coral Reefs

  • David Hopley
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/1-4020-3880-1_102

Coral reefs are the largest structures built solely by plants and animals and many are clearly visible from space. Gross distribution is limited by a requirement for warm water with an average winter maximum temperature of 18°C generally regarded as providing the poleward margin for coral reefs which are thus found only in a few areas outside the tropics. High temperatures above 30°C may also be lethal to corals. Other requirements include good water circulation and a generally low nutrient status for ambient waters. In the open ocean where nutrient availability is very low, coral reefs exhibit a very efficient nutrient recycling, the marine equivalent of tropical rainforests. Inshore reefs can tolerate higher nutrient levels and may even respond with more rapid growth rates, though this may be countered by the skeleton laid down being more fragile. Turbid waters have a detrimental effect, limiting the penetration of light in the water column and compressing the vertical zonation of...

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© Springer 2005

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  • David Hopley

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