Chapter

Consequences to reefs of changing environmental stress

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/9780198787341.003.0009

Series: Biology of Habitats Series

Consequences to reefs of changing environmental stress

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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

Chapter.  8446 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Aquatic Biology ; Animal Pathology and Diseases

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