[Coral-List] More on the need to consider the full tropical reef quilt, not just the few brightly colored squares within it

Kaufman, Leslie S lesk at bu.edu
Sat Apr 19 13:13:19 EDT 2014

HI all.

Look, I love hard corals and reefs that are covered nearly entirely by them- I totally get it.  Nonetheless I felt it would be useful to contribute a bit more to the discussion about how habitats other than hard coral carpet contribute in important ways to overall tropical reef dynamics.

I can’t remember how much I said in the last post about the situation in Bahia, on the Abrolhos Bank of Brazil.  This is where our Brazilian team discovered a thousands-square-kilometer patchwork of:

1- coral reef
2- bare rhodolith bed
3- rhodolith bed covered by fleshy algal pavement
4- buracas (solution holes that function like an inside-out reef habitat fish magnets, sometimes filled to the brim with rotting fleshy algae, sometimes exploding into the water column in a burst of remineralization).
5- pleistocene reef relief (similar to what Gene was talking about, only deeper)

The Abrolhos Bank also has extremely interesting sedimentary habitats, including a strange, dinky version of seagrass beds, and even stranger curtains of intercalated calcareous-reef and siliceous-terrigenous sediments surrounding the chapeiroe reefs.

Here is a link to a paper about the rhodoliths: http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0035171
Here is a link to a paper about the buracas: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0278434313001350
A recent paper on the Abrolhos rhodolith microbiome: http://www.nature.com/ismej/journal/v8/n1/abs/ismej2013133a.html
Here’s something on the fleshy algae, mostly in the Abrolhos Archipelago: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0278434313003154
Here is a paper that assembles much of what we know about coral reef dynamics in Abrolhos: http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0054260

Here are some blog posts I made on behalf of the team during the 2012 Abrolhos Expedition.  The second and third blog posts have some good pictures of buracas, rhodolith beds, and fleshy algae:


You can also google up some more stuff, including press coverage of the 2012 expedition, student theses, etc. much in the original Portuguese.

Steve Mussman asked if I could provide references on the importance of fleshy algal pavements to fishery production.  I don’t have a lot of quantitative stuff on that, other than our first, ancient description of the general importance of FAP in the eastern Antilles (Adey, W. H., P. J. Adey, R. Burke and L. S. Kaufman.  1977.  The Holocene reefs of Eastern Martinique, French West Indies.  Atoll Research Bull.  218: 1-40.).

The Rede Abrolhos team is currently working on a series of papers about the food web associated with the Abrolhos Bank habitat quilt, as part of the results of Matheus Freitas’ doctoral work.  Everything has been ground and the atoms weighed, but give us some time to put it all back together again!

Here’s where I need to formally thank Walter Adey, Steve Stanley, Jeremy Jackson, Lynton Land, and somewhat by proxy Gene Shinn, Bob Ginsburg, and Ian Macintyre for teaching us all to open, not close our eyes when swimming over fields of stuff other than hard coral!


Les Kaufman
Professor of Biology
Boston University Marine Program
Marine Conservation Fellow
Betty and Gordon Moore Center for Ecosystem Science and Economics
Conservation International
lesk at bu.edu<mailto:lesk at bu.edu>

More information about the Coral-List mailing list