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Darwin’s theory sets out a sequence of three stages in atoll formation.It starts with a fringing reef forming around an extinct volcanic island as the island and ocean floor subsides.If the land subsides slowly, the fringing reefs keep pace by growing upwards on a base of older, dead coral, forming a barrier reef enclosing a lagoon between the reef and the land.

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Unlike sea anemones, corals secrete hard carbonate exoskeletons which support and protect the coral polyps.

Most reefs grow best in warm, shallow, clear, sunny and agitated water.

They are under threat from climate change, oceanic acidification, blast fishing, cyanide fishing for aquarium fish, sunscreen use, Most of the coral reefs we can see today were formed after the last glacial period when melting ice caused the sea level to rise and flood the continental shelves.

This means that most modern coral reefs are less than 10,000 years old.

They are most commonly found at shallow depths in tropical waters, but deep water and cold water corals also exist on smaller scales in other areas.

Coral reefs deliver ecosystem services to tourism, fisheries and shoreline protection.

Coral reefs are diverse underwater ecosystems held together by calcium carbonate structures secreted by corals.

Coral reefs are built by colonies of tiny animals found in marine water that contain few nutrients.

The two main variables determining the geomorphology, or shape, of coral reefs are the nature of the underlying substrate on which they rest, and the history of the change in sea level relative to that substrate.

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