Physical And Biological Erosion

The removal of calcium carbonate from coral reefs (erosion) is a key process on coral reefs that involves a number of elements including dissolution, physical breakage and the activities of a number of so-called bioeroders. These elements are intertwined and it is difficult to separate them. They are a feature of recent as well as fossil coral reefs.

Wave action erodes the reef slowly over time by physical action and chemical dissolution of the reef substratum. During storms, however, this rate will increase and large boulders may be dislodged. As they roll down the reef slope they may physically remove many more coral colonies (Fig. 8.1B, C). These forces can have significant impacts on the shape of coral reefs (e.g. spur and groove formations such as those seen on Wistari Reef (Fig. 8.1D)). Depending on the wave energy and the relative hardness of coral skeletons (that itself is affected by chemical and biological factors), the impacts of storms can be substantial. After a cyclone has passed through an area it appears as if the living veneer of the reef has just been peeled off and shed.

Biological erosion consists of the loss of reef substratum by boring and by grazing. A suite of organisms

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