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Coral Reefs (OCB-5930, OCE4930)



"Slow Life" is an amazing time lapse clip produced by Daniel Stoupin (http://www.microworldsphotography.com) revealing the motion of corals and sponges. In this video you also see how Fungia corals can excavate themselves even if they are buried deep in sand. Such ability is important for a coral that lives not attached to a substrate and can be carried away with currents and swells.


Course description:

Coral reefs are among the most diverse and most fascinating ecosystems on earth. They are extremely productive ecosystems and play an important role in the global carbon cycle. They have been existing for more than two billion years and now are rapidly disappearing.

In this course the students learn about the processes that build, structure and destroy coral reefs. The lectures will address the interaction of the major biological, geochemical and hydrodynamical mechanisms that govern the functioning of the reef ecosystem. Topics include the biology of reef organisms and the processes that threaten reef ecosystems worldwide.

Acropora coral under stress due to exposure to air at low tidel produce large quantities of mucus in order to protect themselves agains dessication.

Learning objectives:

At the end of this course, the student will be able to

explain the physical, chemical and biological principles of coral reef ecosystems

  • examine coral reef food web structures and the fate of organic material, nutrients and contaminants
  • assess the role of the coral reef frame work and skeletal material for tropical benthic and pelagic communities
  • explain the contribution of coral reefs to the carbon cycle
  • develop research objectives in coral reef ecology
  • discuss human impact on reef ecosystems
  • see and appreciate reef ecosystems from an educated perspective

Course format:

The course includes lectures and discussions of research articles. The lectures are based on the primary literature, with attention given to active areas of research. The material will be presented using Power Point lectures following the course outline listed below. Instructor and student presentations will be available at the blackboard site.