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Bioerosion and coral reef growth: A dynamic balance

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Bioerosion, involving the weakening and breakdown of calcareous coral reef structures, is due to the chemical and mechanical activities of numerous and diverse biotic agents. These range in size from minute, primarily intra-skeletal organisms, the microborers (e.g., algae, fungi, bacteria) to larger and often externally-visible macroboring invertebrate (e.g., sponges, polychaete worms, sipunculans, molluscs, crustaceans, echinoids) and fish (e.g., parrotfishes, acanthurids, pufferfishes) species. Constructive coral reef growth and destructive bioerosive processes are often in close balance. Dead corals are generally subject to higher rates of bioerosion than living corals, therefore, bioerosion and reef degradation can result from disturbances that cause coral mortality, such as sedimentation, eutrophication, pollution, temperature extremes, predation, and coral diseases. The effects of intensive coral reef bioerosion, involving El Niño-Southern Oscillation, Acanthaster predation, watershed alterations, and over-fishing, are re-examined after ~20 years (early 1990s–2010). We review the evidence showing that the biologically-mediated dissolution of calcium carbonate structures by endolithic algae and clionaid sponges will be accelerated with ocean acidification. The CaCO3 budget dynamics of Caribbean and eastern tropical Pacific reefs is reviewed and provides sobering case studies on the current state of coral reefs and their future in a high-CO2 world.




Glynn, P. W., & Manzello, D. P. (2015). Bioerosion and coral reef growth: A dynamic balance. In Coral Reefs in the Anthropocene (pp. 67–97). Springer Netherlands.

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