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The Biology of Reefs and Reef Organisms

Reefs provide a wealth of opportunity for learning about biological and ecosystem processes, and reef biology courses are among the most popular in marine biology and zoology departments the world over. Walter M. Goldberg has taught one such course for years, and he marshals that experience in the pages of The Biology of Reefs and Reef Organisms.

Goldberg examines the nature not only of coral reefs—the best known among types of reefs—but also of sponge reefs, worm reefs, and oyster reefs, explaining the factors that influence their growth, distribution, and structure. A central focus of the book is reef construction, and Goldberg details the plants and animals that form the scaffold of the reef system and allow for the attachment and growth of other organisms, including those that function as bafflers, binders, and cementing agents. He also tours readers through reef ecology, paleontology, and biogeography, all of which serve as background for the problems reefs face today and the challenge of their conservation.
Visually impressive, profusely illustrated, and easy to read, The Biology of Reefs and Reef Organisms offers a fascinating introduction to reef science and will appeal to students and instructors of marine biology, comparative zoology, and oceanography.

Ancillary teaching materials are available from the author,

401 pages | 328 color plates, 36 halftones, 14 line drawings, 10 tables | 8 1/2 x 11 | © 2013

Biological Sciences: Ecology, Natural History

Earth Sciences: Oceanography and Hydrology


“In this excellent synthesis of reefs past and present, Goldberg shows the great diversity of organisms that add structural complexity to the marine environment. . . . This is a great resource, and is fully referenced for those who want to delve further into a particular subject. Highly recommended.”

G. C. Jensen, University of Washington | Choice

“Overall, this book provides a detailed account of all things reef-related: what they are, where they came from, and where they are going. While the book discusses current controversies and challenges to both the study of reefs and reef health itself, it does not have a pessimistic tone. In fact, the beautiful illustrations and pictures, and the facts and information about reefs and their inhabitants, will go a long way toward inspiring a new generation of students to appreciate reefs in all their intricate detail.”


“At a time when the word Biodiversity is almost everywhere, from scientists to the general public, from scientific journals and international conferences to newspapers, this book comes at the right time to give body to this concept with clear examples, and to summarise the growing literature in the various fields concerning the diversity and functions of reef organisms and structures, including biology, physiology, biogeography, ecology, geology and paleontology. This book shows not only the richness of these ecosystems and their ecological and biological complexity but also their vulnerability and the need to protect them rapidly, as well as the gaps in our knowledge.”

Limnology and Oceanography

“In the stunningly short space of half a lifetime the world’s coral reefs have melted before our eyes into other things, from multihued to brown, from labyrinthine to flattened, from hard and waxing to brittle and waning, from boom towns glutted by fishes to ghost towns gutted of inhabitants. . . . Now it is our job to train a new generation of coral reef scientists—natural, social, and synthetic—on whose shoulders fall a massive exercise in clinical ecology: the stewarding of our most diverse, productive, and beloved of marine ecosystems into a more certain future in spite of all that we are and all that we have done. . . . As a general text on coral reef biology for college undergraduates, entry-level graduate students, or very advanced high school students, this one as yet has no equal. . . . We are witnessing an event of majesty and horror that is both preventable (though too late for that) and reversible (if we act hard and soon). This book is an essential tool in the campaign to ready our successors for the wonder, the discoveries, and the battles that lie ahead.”

Les Kaufman, Boston University Marine Program and Conservation International | Reef Encounter

“I especially appreciated the elements of page design that interweave structure, function, and often paleontology to give the reader a more holistic view of organism-to-ecosystem ecology and evolution. . . . The extensive use of photographs taken by experts in the field, combined with diagrams derived from the primary literature, puts this 401-page book in the category of ‘must have on my bookshelf.’ . . . The Biology of Reefs and Reef Organisms is clearly a painstakingly assembled labor of love.”

Phillip Dustan, College of Charleston | Ecology

“Reef biology—a sizable field of research—is becoming more pertinent as anthropogenic factors negatively impact fragile marine ecosystems. Encapsulating and accurately communicating the main aspects of reef biology in a single text is a real challenge, yet The Biology of Reefs and Reef Organisms by Walter Goldberg manages to achieve this feat. The text covers a large breadth of content, while still providing in-depth descriptions of the many aspects of reef biology. . . . Its comprehensive nature makes it a major accomplishment for a single author and an extremely useful resource for the field of reef biology.”

Jessica Lye, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia | Biological Conservation

Table of Contents

1) An Introduction to the Structure and Formation of Modern Reefs
The Nature and Origins of Reefs
Frame Reef Formation and Structure
Reef Growth and the Carbonate Budget
     Pluses and Minuses
Coral Reefs
     Limits to Coral Reef Distribution
     Types of Reefs
     Reef Zonation
The Evolution of Modern Reefs
     Tectonic Forces
     Sea Level Changes and Reef Growth

2) Reef Minerals and Mineralization
Calcium Carbonates
A Little Crystallography

3) Reef Cyanobacteria
Cyanobacterial Form and Function
Rock and Reef-Associated Cyanobacteria
     Calcifying Cyanobacteria
Stromatolite Formation
     Trapping the Sediment
     Cementing the Record
Nitrogen Fixation and Trophic Relationships

4) Reef Algae and Foraminiferans
The Chlorophyta
     Endolithic Microalgae
     Halimeda, an Extraordinary Calcifying Macrophyte
     Reproduction in Halimeda and Other Chlorophytes
     The Biology of Some Other Calcareous Chlorophytes
Brown Algae
Red Algae
     Red Algal Calcification
     Contributions of Crustose Corallines to Reef Structure
     Trophic Relationships
Turf Algae

5) Reef Sponges
Groups of Sponges and Their Skeletal Structures
     Glass Sponges
The Structural and Functional Roles of Sponges on Reefs
     Reef Growth and Recovery: Binding and Stabilization
     Bioeroding Sponges
     Hexactinellid Reefs
     Modern and Ancient Coralline Sponges
Trophic Dynamics and Ecological Interactions
     The Aquiferous System and Sponge Feeding
     Microbial Symbionts
     Predation and Sponge Chemistry
     Sponges as Habitats

6) Reef Corals and Their Allies
Reef Hydrozoa
     The Milleporid Corals
Introduction to the Anthozoa
Uncalcified Reef Anthozoans
     Sea Anemones
     Zoantharians and Corallimorpharians
Calcified Anthozoans
     The Scleractinians
The Octocorals
Deep-sea Corals and Coral Reefs
Coral Reproduction
     Asexual Modes
     Sexual Modes

7) Annelids and Sipunculans
Free-moving Polychaetes
Tubicolous and Burrowing Polychaetes
Polychaete Bioeroders
Polychaete Reproduction

8) Reef Mollusca
Mollusc Shell Structure
Molluscs as Carbonate Builders, Borers, and Scrapers
     The Polyplacophora
     The Gastropoda
     Reef-building Bivalves
     Endolithic Bivalves
     Ancient Rudist Bivalves

9) Reef Lophophorate and Protochordate Phyla
The Bryozoa
     Reef Bryozoa
     The Vicissitudes of the Ancient Bryozoa
     Brachiopods on Reefs
     Didemnid Ascidians

10) Reef Crustacea
The Maxillopoda
The Malacostraca
Decapod Crustaceans
     Brachyuran Crabs
     Hermit Crabs
Coral-Decapod Communities

11) Reef Echinoderms
     The Crown of Thorns
Reef Crinoids
     Crinoid Paleobiology

12) The Effect of Feeding by Reef Fishes on Corals and Coral Reefs
Coral Reef Herbivores
     Herbivory and its Deterrence
     Nominal Herbivory
The Special Role of Scarine Fishes
     The Scrapers
     The Excavators
     The Browsers
     Food Milling by Parrotfishes
Corallivorous Damselfishes and Their Gardens
Fishes That Perch or Live on Corals
Benthic Predatory Fishes: Their Influence on Corals and Coral Reefs
     Corallivorous and Other Durophagous Fishes

13) A Brief History of Reefs and Corals
Microbialite Reefs of the Precambrian
Reefs of the Paleozoic Era
     The Cambrian
     The Ordovician
     Silurian Reefs
     Devonian Reefs
     Carboniferous Reefs
     Permian Reefs
Reefs of the Mesozoic Era
     The Triassic
     Jurassic Reefs
     The Cretaceous and the Rise of the Rudista
Reefs of the Cenozoic Era
     The Paleocene Epoch, 65–56 Mya
     The Eocene and Oligocene Epochs, 56–23 Mya
     The Miocene Epoch, 23–5 Mya
     The Pliocene and Pleistocene Epochs, 5 Mya–11.7 kya
     Are Ancient Reefs the Key to the Present?

14) Ecology, Diversity, and Biogeography of Coral Reefs
Different Types of Diversity
Diversity and Life Cycle Processes
Spawning Mode, Dispersal, and Connectivity
     Getting There and Staying There
Diversity and Coexistence
Diversity at Geographic Scales: Biogeography
     Hotspots and the Role of Commonness and Rarity in Coral Reef      Biodiversity
     The Coral Triangle
     Departure from the Coral Triangle
     Crossing the Pacific
     The Western Atlantic and the Greater Caribbean
     The Brazilian Province
     The Tropical Eastern Atlantic

15) Reefs Now and in the Next 100 Years
 Climate Change
     The Global Carbon Cycle
     Global Public Goods Gone Bad
     The Impacts of Increased Dissolved CO2
 The Biology of Coral  Bleaching and Disease
     Types and Causes of Coral Bleaching
     Recovery from Bleaching
     Coral Disease
 Direct and Indirect Effects of Human Activities on Reefs
     Destructive Fishing Practices
     Fishing on Deep Sea Coral Reefs
     Coral Mining
     Loss of Water Quality

16) Reef Resilience, Loss of Biodiversity, and the Role of Conservation
Acclimatization, Resistance, and Avoidance
Resilience and Phase Shifts
     Functional Redundancy, Species Richness, and Resilience
Synergies and Loss of Resilience
     Jamaica: A Case History
     Early Warning?
Stemming the Tide: Sanctuaries, Reserves, and Marine Protected Areas
     Protection is Relative
     Sanctuaries and Marine Protected Areas in the United States
     The World’s Largest Marine Protected Area
Design and Function of Marine Reserves
     Results of Protection
     Reserve Sites
     Reserve Maturity and Size
     Reserve Networks
     Stepping Stones, Corridors, and Habitat Diversity
     Loss of Connectivity
Are Reserves Enough?
     What Must be Done

I. Wentworth Scale (Grain Size)
II. Coral Reefs of the World (a-d)
III. Zooxanthellae Clade Distribution
IV. Geological Time Scale
V. Taxa Referred to in This Text


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