legal definition of a reef

Mike Risk riskmj at
Mon Jan 14 12:54:50 EST 2002

Hi. I have watched this debate with some interest, finally am prompted to

There is a 40-year-old (at least) definition of "reef", used by geologists:
a reef is "a biologically-constructed, wave-resistant framework." That
worked then, it still works. Five words.

The one you cite is misleading (as well as being way too long). Although
most reefs de facto last decades, that is not a prerequisite. Non-obligatory
descriptors do not belong in definitions. One example: the reef that Tom
Tomascik described in Coral Reefs that was constructed within 5 years on an
Indonesian lava flow was certainly a reef, is one now, and will have been
one even if slain in its 6th year by dynamite-fishing.

As to whether those deep-water, hydrocarbon-nourished Lophelia-built
"things" off Norway are "reefs"-that's an interesting question. I don't even
think we need be constrained in our thinking to CaCO3 reefs. I can imagine a
submersible program, somewhere on the west coast, running into huge
accumulations of Geoidea's...all SiO2. Could happen. (And, of course, many
ancient reefs had lots of siliceous critters, but not the main

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