scientific review | Mar Ecol Prog Ser
Ecological studies of corals on reef slopes published in the last 10-15 y are reviewed. Emphasis is placed on controls of coral distributions. Reef slope structures are defined with particular reference to the role of corals in providing constructional framework. General coral distributions are synthesized from widespread reefs and are described in the order: shallowest, most exposed reef slopes; main region of hermatypic growth; deepest studies conducted by SCUBA or submersible, and cryptic habitats. Most research has concerned the area between the shallow and deep extremes. Favoured methods of study have involved cover, zonation and diversity, although inadequacies of these simple measurements have led to a few multivariate treatments of data. The importance of early life history strategies and their influence on succession and final community structure is emphasised. Control of coral distribution exerted by their dual nutrition requirements - particulate food and light - are the least understood despite being extensively studied Well studied controls include water movement, sedimentation and predation. All influence coral populations directly and by acting on competitors. Finally, controls on coral population structure by competitive processes between species, and between corals and other taxa are illustrated. Their importance to general reef ecology so far as currently is known, is described.