Most of the functions of reefs, such as the provision of productive fisheries, tourism appeal, and coastal protection from storms, are founded on having a complex reef structure that keeps accreting (growing). A structurally complex reef provides habitat (and hiding places) to support high levels of biodiversity (Gratwicke and Speight 2005). If a reef is to continue functioning then it must at least have net growth – i.e., that the deposition of a carbonate skeleton by corals and calcareous algae must exceed the rate at which the skeleton is removed by physical damage and the erosion caused by a host of taxa including burrowing algae, sponges, and worms. The balance of reef construction and erosion is known as a carbonate budget (Stearn et al. 1977). Perhaps that greatest threat to coral reef biodiversity is the long-term loss of reef habitat that could occur if carbonate budgets become persistently negative (erosive).
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