Coral Reef Energetics
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At first glance, the most impressive features of coral reefs are their great biological diversity and oasislike quality. Hundreds of species of plants and animals compete aggressively for nutrients, food, and space. Order seems non-existent. The early investigators concentrated on studying the autecology of organisms, particularly corals, describing their distribution, habitats, behavior, and physiology (e.g., Mayor 1924; Yonge 1930). The problem with these studies, and in fact with almost all ecological studies at the time, was that with so many species to examine, there was little hope of identifying their individual roles within the system or the interactions between them. Lindeman suggested what has become another approach to ecological research, ecosystem modeling. The emphasis turned from examination of the behavior, physiology, and distribution of each organism to an examination of community and ecosystem processes. Lindeman (1942) proposed that energy flow could be used to integrate communities into functional units. It is not my purpose here to go into the development of this approach, but rather to point out that the ecosystem modeling approach permitted investigators to ask a new set of questions about entire, functioning systems, based upon their energetics.
KeywordsCoral Reef Great Barrier Reef Reef Flat Reef Slope Reef System
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