Open Access

Role of reef fauna in sediment transport and distribution

Studies from Tektite I and II
  • H. E. Clifton1
Helgoländer wissenschaftliche Meeresuntersuchungen24:BF01609502


1. Reef organisms may play a major role in the transport and distribution of sediment on the sea floor adjacent to coral reefs.

2. Some fish such asMalacanthus plumieri (Bloch) selectively transport and collect certain types of sediment (such as larger coral and shell fragments).

3. The random movement of crawling or burrowing organisms may cause a large amount of sediment to be shifted laterally on the sea floor. On slopes, a net downhill displacement may result.

4. The surface configuration and internal structure of the sediment is rapidly changed by faunal mixing. Ripple marks formed by waves or currents are obliterated by the activity of organisms in only a few weeks in the environment studied. Internal structure (bedding) near the sediment-water interface is similarly destroyed in a short period of time.

5. Larger clasts (including empty shells) on the sea floor tend to be buried by faunal undermining. The rate of burial depends primarily on the grain size of the substrate.

6. The random movement of fauna on the sea floor may produce a predominantly concave-up orientation of pelecypod shells and shell fragments on the sea floor — the opposite of that produced by the activity of waves or currents.