What's a reef??

Bob Buddemeier buddrw at kgs.ukans.edu
Wed Jan 16 21:08:32 EST 2002

Thanks very much, Mike -- that clears up quite a few things for me.  I have
always been curious about where various governments got the advice upon
they base their reef-related policies


Mike Risk wrote:

> I was only prompted to respond in the first place because (as I told a
> senior colleague who responded to me privately) I grow frustrated by those
> who would re-invent the wheels on the handbasket in which reefs are so
> quickly going to hell. My submission was somewhat tongue-in-cheek: I knew
> perfectly well that there was no chance of that definition, or any other,
> being widely accepted. All such proposals will be talked to death.
> The fractious and divisive nature of the coral reef biological community
> by now the stuff of legends. Just one example, of many: equally as
> (more so) as the definition is the ability to describe what we see. I
> the governments of several nations (including the USA) on coral reef
> monitoring programs. I can guarantee you that, 30 years after the basic
> technique was described, there is still no general agreement on survey
> methods. This is clearly absurd. As all survey methods, properly applied,
> give the same answer, it would not be a problem if the various groups met
> regularly to compare notes-but even that doesn't happen.
> So I knew that adoption of the Wells 1957 definition (which was a
> of opinions at the time) was impossible, because:
>     1. there are those out there who would not agree to ANY definition
> they had not made up themselves;
>     2. those hearing it for the first time would have to admit they were
> unfamiliar with the classic reef literature, and
>     3. it was proposed by (shudder!) geologists. (Do I need to point out
> here the host of illustrious ecologists with geology degrees-starting with
> Darwin-without whom our knowldege of reefs would be woeful indeed?)
> There is nothing wrong with that definition-only the fact that it will
> be adopted.
> John Ware's posting splits more hairs than it ties together. There is
> nothing wrong with "wave-resistant" as an essential descriptor. Talking
> about wave heights, wave strength (Reynold's Numbers??) etc. is just plain
> silly. Every structure we would accept as a reef is wave-resistant. Do
> resist all waves? Of course not. (I resist temptation, but on rare
> have been known to...that's for a later discussion). Will there be a
> spectrum of resistances? Of course. Is this a problem? Not to a group that
> can deal with the CCA "boilers" as well as the branched, fragile patches.
> This is an essential part of the definition, as it separates "reefs" from,
> say, piles of oyster shells. It is worth noting that the original word
> "reif" was High German/Old Norse, and meant a boat-holer.
> Equally, there is nothing wrong with "framework." The building analogy
> actually proves the point, instead of being fatal, as John would have it.
> The building falls down without the framework, ergo the structure needs
> It is silly to claim that massive structures, underlain by frameworks, do
> not qualify.
> When we look at reefs in the record, it is often hard to accept the
> existence of frameworks-most of them are jumbled piles of rubble. Again I
> don't think those observations are fatal-instead, they document the
> catastrophic force of rare storms. Wave-resistance is one thing, but
> a hurricane, well, "resistance is futile", and the framework is destroyed.
> The definition I quoted is from a GSA Volume titled "Ecology"-I recommend
> it, even though it was published prior to 1995. (I think it's Memoir #54.)
> In that same volume is a paper by Teichert, describing the cold and
> deep-water coral banks off Europe, and pointing out that these should not
> called "reefs". See above. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure
> that an uncemented pile of corals is no more wave-resistant than a pile of
> oyster shells. So this wheel was invented a long time ago.
> If we are looking for a legal/policy-oriented reef definition, here is
> does NOT go in:
> 1. there should be no mention of corals. All sorts of critters make reefs,
> even now. It is not even proper to say that corals dominate modern
> terms of carbonate budgets, algae and bioeroders are more important by far
> than corals. (I can just hear the screams if I proposed that reefs were
> "algal-cemented frameworks supporting large numbers of bioeroders.")
> 2. there should be no mention of zooxanthellae/algal symbiosis. That is a
> factor that almost always accompanies reef formation (and has in the past)
> but any legal challenge would, for example, quickly expose our degree of
> ignorance of terrestrial OM sources in the diets of corals. This could
> to a lack of legal protection for parts of inshore reefs.
> 3. there should be no time implications. Tom's 6-year-old reef is as
> of protection as are those 3,000-year-old reef fronts on the GBR.
> In short: the only change I can see making to the original definition
> be to exclude humans! So, "Biologically-constructed (not by us!)
> wave-resistant frameworks."
> I now leave this debate, in the sure and certain knowldege that, should I
> come back in 5 years, no progress will have been made.
> ~~~~~~~
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Dr. Robert W. Buddemeier
Kansas Geological Survey
University of Kansas
1930 Constant Avenue
Lawrence, KS 66047 USA
e-mail: buddrw at ku.edu
ph (1) (785) 864-2112
fax (1) (785) 864-5317


  Robert W. Buddemeier <buddrw at ku.edu>
  University of Kansas
  Kansas Geological Survey

  Robert W. Buddemeier
  Dr.                       <buddrw at ku.edu>
  University of Kansas
  Kansas Geological Survey
  1930 Constant Avenue      Fax: 785-864-5317
  Lawrence                  Work: 785-864-2112
  Additional Information:
  Last Name   Buddemeier
  First Name  Robert W.
  Version     2.1

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