Please help with research questions

Juliet Martinez Juliet.Martinez at
Mon Jun 18 10:32:22 EDT 2001

Dear Coral List,

I am a researcher/fact checker at World Book Encyclopedia, currently checking the article entitled "coral reef" that will appear in the 2002 print edition. I have a few questions on statements that appear in the most recent draft, but which I am having difficulty verifying in current literature. Austin Bowden-Kerby answered some of my questions and suggested I address the list with the others. 

1. Does everyone agree that the Great Barrier Reef is the world's largest reef system by area? Does anyone know the actual length (I know it's about 2000 km, but would prefer a more exact measurement)  and area for the GBR? One source I have says that the largest reef system is a fringing reef system in the Red Sea, at 4000 km long.  In search of these answers I have emailed the Australian Geological Survey and Reefbase, but gotten no response.

2. Do coral reefs occur in the subtropics? The article contributor says they do, but since most of my sources say that coral reefs occur in the tropics only, I could use some examples of sub-tropical coral reefs. I also realize that non-hermatypic corals grow in much colder water, deeper in the ocean, and outside of the tropics, but do they occur as far north as the Arctic Circle? 

3. To what family do the sea grasses belong? The lily family?

4. What is the best authoritative estimate of the total species richness of coral ecosystems? I've found the following: "thousands" (Castro and Huber. Marine Biology. 1992), "tens of thousands" (NOAA's coral page), and "one to nine million" (Marjorie Reaka-Kudla, cited in Science, and by the World Resource Institute). How would most of the coral reef scientists ballpark it? I'm looking for the current scientific consensus on it. Also: What is the ballpark number of reef-building coral species?

5. How old are the oldest known coral reefs? 

6. Some sources list coral reefs as an important carbon sink. Others say that the coral reefs only account for about 2% of global carbon storage, and contend that as such, they are not a significant carbon sink. Again, I'm looking for the scientific consensus on this, if one exists.

I appreciate the assistance of any and all who can take the time to reply. Please bear in mind that the goal of the article is to present an informative article that reflects current scientific consensus. Also, please include your position and credentials so that I can cite your assistance in my list of sources.

Thank you,

Juliet Martinez

Research Department
World Book Encyclopedia
233 N. Michigan, Suite 2000
Chicago, IL 60601
P: 312-819-6554
F: 312-729-5612
E: jmartine at

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