legal definition of a reef

Mark Spalding Mark.Spalding at
Mon Jan 14 07:04:30 EST 2002

The new World Atlas of Coral Reefs provides a simple definition which may be
of use:

A reef is "a physical structure which has been built up, and continues to
grow over decadal time-scales, as a result of the accumulation of calcium
carbonate laid down by hermatypic corals and other organisms."

This definition tries to get in:
- physical structure
- living components
- a reef may go through dramatic events such as Acanthaster plagues, but is
still a reef
- corals are critical, but often not the only components.

Of course under this definition there remain a lot of important coral
communities which are not coral reefs, and also some dead eroding structures
which WERE coral reefs.



Mark Spalding, PhD
Senior Marine Ecologist
UNEP-World Conservation Monitoring Centre
219 Huntingdon Road                                 Tel: +44 (0)1223 277314
Cambridge, CB3 0DL                                  Fax: +44 (0)1223 277136
UK                                    e-mail:mark.spalding at
Research Associate
Cambridge Coastal Research Unit
Department of Geography
Downing St

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