Chapter

The abiotic environment

Charles R. C. Sheppard, Simon K. Davy, Graham M. Pilling and Nicholas A. J. Graham

in The Biology of Coral Reefs

Published in print November 2017 | ISBN: 9780198787341
Published online January 2018 | e-ISBN: 9780191829420 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/oso/9780198787341.003.0003

Series: Biology of Habitats Series

The abiotic environment

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Coral reefs are largely restricted to shallow tropical seas, where water is warm, nutrient poor and well illuminated for photosynthesis and where sufficient calcium carbonate (aragonite) exists in seawater for the precipitation of coral skeletons (i.e. calcification). Extreme temperatures and salinities cause thermal and osmotic stress, while large amounts of sediment smother corals and block light. High concentrations of nutrients encourage algal growth at the expense of corals, while low seawater aragonite concentrations prevent net accretion of the reef framework. At local scales, the hydrodynamic regime influences reef growth, as corals are damaged by storms and wave surge. The typical abiotic environment in which reefs are found, and which determines reef distribution, is defined. The chapter also discusses marginal reefs, where corals live at the margins of their survival, for example in the warm, salty seas of the Persian Gulf and the relatively cold waters of Australia’s Lord Howe Island.

Keywords: reef distribution; temperature; salinity; light; nutrients; calcification; sediment; hydrodynamics; reef growth; marginal reefs

Chapter.  12480 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Aquatic Biology ; Animal Pathology and Diseases

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