Hubbard, Dennis Geology Department, Oberlin College, Oberlin, Ohio.
Last reviewed:March 2020
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- Coral reef distribution
- Living corals and reefs
- Coral reef types
- Coral zonation
- Coral reef building
- Reefs through geologic time
- Coral reefs under threat
- Related Primary Literature
- Additional Reading
A rigid and wave-resistant marine structure that stands above its surroundings. To navigators, a reef is any rocky structure that poses a threat to navigation. Marine biologists and geologists specify that reefs are constructed by organisms that secrete calcium carbonate (CaCO3) skeletons. Typically known as coral reefs (Fig. 1), these structures are ridges or masses of limestone (the common sedimentary rock composed predominantly of calcium carbonate) built up of detrital material deposited around a framework of skeletal remains of colonial corals, mollusks, calcareous algae, bryozoans, worms, and sponges. By far, corals (including scleractinians, that is, the true or stony hard corals) are the most important members of the modern reef-building organisms. See also: Calcite; Coral reef structural complexity; Limestone; Scleractinia
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