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Free Content Coral Reef Project—Papers in Memory of Dr. Thomas F. Goreau. 17.

The Ecology of Jamaican Coral Reefs. II. Geomorphology, Zonation, and Sedimentary Phases

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The coral reef ecosystem is seen as a specialized chemical environment converting dissolved calcium carbonate ions into insoluble calcitic and aragonitic calcium carbonate. The movement of the calcareous material is a potent dynamic factor in the morphogenesis of the coral reefs. There is a precarious balance between accretion and ablation in the system.

This paper is concerned with the sedimentary phases of the calcareous biota and the initial patterns of distribution and deposition of the calcareous material within the reefs, and not with the long-term depositional changes induced by erosion, diagenesis, and lithification.

The calcareous material is deposited into two distinct phases: a rigid framework (built by primary hermatypes) and a clastic framework (contributed by secondary hermatypes). The reef builders, fillers, and cementers are eventually sediment producers.

The unconsolidated skeletal remains of hermatypes make (mostly due to fragmentation) ramparts of imbricated shingles in the reef crest and land-ward side. In the deeper seaward slope, the corals produce talus cones (by steady biodegradation of corals or by gravitational slump). Silty and muddy sediments accumulate on the fore-reef slope; outcrops and pinnacles there support a rich diverse biota.

The hermatypic calcareous algae are significant sediment producers. There is a relation of algal generic diversity to the available substrate. The lithophytes are present at greater depths than the psammophytes. In the fore reef, Halimeda constitutes about 80 per cent of the algal debris. Remains of Halimeda form the largest single part of the total carbonate produced in the whole reef. It is suggested that algal populations should be assessed by their turnover rates, rather than by species diversity or biomass.

The main structural and biotic zones with their depth ranges and local variabilities are summarized.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 1973

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  • The Bulletin of Marine Science is dedicated to the dissemination of high quality research from the world's oceans. All aspects of marine science are treated by the Bulletin of Marine Science, including papers in marine biology, biological oceanography, fisheries, marine affairs, applied marine physics, marine geology and geophysics, marine and atmospheric chemistry, and meteorology and physical oceanography.
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