Rain forests of the sea??

Rick Grigg rgrigg at iniki.soest.hawaii.edu
Thu May 25 20:40:49 EDT 2000

Dear John,

	Perhaps a perspective might be gained by turning the analogy around.  Rain
forests are the "coral reefs of the land".  

	Not even, as they say in Hawaiian these days.

					Rick Grigg
					University of Hawaii

At 06:38 PM 5/25/00 -0400, Bob Steneck wrote:
>Coral folk,
>  It's all relative but both rainforests and coral reefs are unique and 
>probably worthy of the sound-bite analogy.  Both concentrate diversity, 
>have complex habitat architecture and are highly productive (high gross 
>productivity).  Species richness and canopy heights are greater in 
>rainforests, gross productivity is greater on reefs. Taxonomic 
>composition differs significantly.  In rain forests most species are 
>insects, angiosperms and birds.  Reefs have no marine insects, hardly any 
>angiosperms and certainly no birds.  However, reefs have much greater 
>higher-order diversity (e.g., number of phyla).  While there is a wider 
>phyletic range of primary producers (endosymbionts, plankton and multiple 
>phyla of benthic algae) the within group diversity for each is relatively 
>low. For example, species richness in algae is much lower than that for 
>angiosperms, reef fish are less diverse than rainforest birds.  There are 
>low diversity reefs (e.g., Clipperton in the eastern Pacific, Abrolhos 
>off Brazil and Hawaii) that have many of the same zones, groups and 
>ecosystem function of high diversity reefs.  I don't know of low 
>diversity rainforests - this may reveal my ignorance.
>  Coral reefs may be most unique because of their role in producing 
>calcium carbonate bioherms (reef rock).  In a relatively short period of 
>time, say 500 or 1000 years, they can significantly change their physical 
>environment as they grow to and reach sea level.  
>  Finally, both ecosystems are globally threatened.  Would it be useful 
>to consider the rates of change in these two ecosystems?  Reefs in the 
>Caribbean have lost much of their largest framework building corals (the 
>acroporids).  Are there rainforest analogs?  Are the two systems equally 
>resilient to perturbations?
>  Just some food for thought.
>Bob Steneck
>>Dear Coral List,
>>        One of Jim Hendee's recent messages reminded me that one of the
>>legitimate items for the coral list is "controversial topics in coral
>>reef ecology".  
>>        I am not sure that this is a 'controversial topic', but the
>>coral list has been pretty quiet lately.  Are coral reefs really
>>analogous to rain forests or is the coral reef community just taking
>>advantage of a catchy 'sound bite' to gain status in the eyes of the
>>ecologically minded public?
>>        There are certainly some similarities, but I have often thought
>>that the differences are large also.  Anybody care to share their
>>thoughts on this topic with the list??
>Robert S. Steneck, Ph.D.
>Professor, School of Marine Sciences
>Pew Fellow in Marine Conservation
>University of Maine
>Darling Marine Center
>Walpole, ME 04573
>(207) 563 - 3146 ext. 233 
>e-mail:  Steneck at Maine.EDU
>The School of Marine Sciences Web site:

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