Productivity of Zooxanthellae and Biogeochemical Cycles

  • Leonard Muscatine
  • Virginia Weis
Part of the Environmental Science Research book series (ESRH, volume 43)


Symbiotic dinoflagellates (zooxanthellae) are dominant primary producers in tropical reef communities along with benthic algae (macrophytes), unicellular and filamentous sand algae, turf algae, sea grasses, and phytoplankton (Larkum, 1983). Zooxanthellae are widely distributed and abundant in the cells of foraminiferans, radiolarians, sponges, cnidarians and molluscs. Among the cnidarians, they inhabit true stony corals, soft corals, gorgonians, sea anemones, milleporines, zoanthids, and hydrozoans. Although all of these taxa are represented on coral reefs and contribute to reef productivity, corals are most often used as models for productivity of zooxanthellae. This is because zooxanthellae population densities often exceed 106 cells per cm2 of the surface area of the coral (Muscatine, 1980), corals cover from 10% to 50% of the projected surface area of many reefs (Larkum, 1983), and coral reef communities cover 6 × 105 km2 of the world’s oceans (Smith, 1978). Corals emerge as the source of the most detailed information. Moreover, measurement of coral productivity has now achieved sufficient precision and standardization so that results from a wide range of studies can easily be compared.


Coral Reef Dissolve Inorganic Nitrogen Reef Community Coral Reef Community Symbiotic Dinoflagellate 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • Leonard Muscatine
    • 1
  • Virginia Weis
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of BiologyUniversity of CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA

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