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Updated by Joanna James on Jun 23, 2019
Headline for List of Coral Reef Types – Living Organisms
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List of Coral Reef Types – Living Organisms

Coral reefs are found inhabiting the world's most traversed oceans and not only serve as places of refuge for marine species, but also protect beautiful beaches and island lagoons from erosion.


General Understanding

Throughout the years scientists have discovered that the very make-up of the world's coral reefs depends on the formation and size of reefs in relation to nearby land. Such is the basis on which scientists have distinguished certain types of coral reefs with others that are found in different parts of the world. However, it has been found that coral reefs are divided into four groups. Namely, Fringing Reefs or Shore Reefs, Barrier Reefs, Atolls and Patch Reefs. The latter is more or less excluded at times from the list mentioned above, though still retaining some degree of significance amongst those fascinated by, and keen to learn and understand, such a unique marine habitat.


Fringing Reefs

This type of coral reef is considered as one which grows directly out of a particular shoreline and is found largely in areas consisting of the Pacific Islands. A feature of these corals is that though there maybe shallow sand bottoms that lie between the beach and edge of where the coral grows, no evidence of a lagoon can be found between the shore and the reef itself which is in stark contrast to what one would encounter for example, when exploring the coral reefs in Maldives. However, the fringing reef is the most common form of reef and is often the kind which is subject to coral reef development. Since lagoons are not found in these areas, fringing reefs are more at risk of being harmed and polluted as a result of various human practices. It is argued that increased human populations in the coastal areas have led to a slowdown in the growth and evolution of fringing reefs.



Look no further than the Maldivian archipelago for a glimpse into what coral reefs are all about. Atolls are seen as circular oceanic reef systems that surround a central lagoon; features that are part and parcel of the Maldives which comprises many atolls and islands, abundant in reefs and marine species. Particularly those found in the Maldives are known for holding an array of treasures beneath the tropical waters as schools of fish and other crustaceans are seen swimming in and out of these formations, which at times are under threat from extreme weather conditions and changes in the environment. Therefore most resorts in this area much like the Anantara Dhigu Maldives Resort, have initiated coral adoption programmes in order to help safeguard these species from being completely wiped out.


Barrier Reefs

Separated by lagoons, barrier reefs are extensive reef complexes that are formed parallel to the shoreline, and common sights, especially in the Pacific and tropical sections of the Atlantic. Though its numbers aren't similar to atolls or fringing reefs, arguably the most popular of the lot, comes across as the Great Barrier Reef which is located off Australia's north-east coast and stretches across 1200 miles. Not limited to being a single reef, the Great Barrier Reef is a group of numerous reefs and is at the centre of most leisure excursions to this part of the country. While it is rare to locate barrier reefs across the globe, those in and around the Caribbean Islands such as the reef found off the coast of Belize and the other which is found to the north of the island of Providencia, are rated as prime examples of such an extensive and diverse coral formation.


Patch Reefs

Similar in nature and appearance to the other reef types, patch reefs are referred to as isolated coral outcrops that are surrounded by seagrass and/or sand. Though considered amongst the world's coral reefs, comparisons are not always looked upon fondly. According to Charles Darwin who provides quite a contradictory argument, patch reefs represent characteristics of all other coral formations, while not remotely resembling any of the common traits of a coral reef as described and put forward by him.