The Coral Reefs Honor provides an introduction to different types of reefs with an obvious focus on coral reefs, reef animals, and reef ecology and conservation. In Texas our primary coral reef communities can be found on artificial structures, including offshore oil rigs, and in the Flower Garden Banks in the Gulf of Mexico.
Coral Reefs come in three main types: Fringing Reefs, Barrier Reefs, and Atoll Reefs. Additionally, Patch Reefs may be found in lagoons, wither within an Atoll or between a Barrier Reef and the shoreline. Think of the reef types as reflecting where they are in relation to land. Fringing Reefs project outward from the shore, Barrier Reefs are off shore, and serve as a barrier to ocean waves. Atolls are formed when a reef around a volcanic island continues to grow as the island sinks. Early on, a Fringing Reef forms around the volcanic island. As the island sinks into the ocean, and the reef keeps building up, it becomes a barrier reef, approximating where the initial Fringing Reef was. Finally, if the volcanic island slips completely beneath the sea, and the reef remains, it is now an Atoll Reef, a ring of reef without any associated island. Over time, the Atoll Reef may be partially covered in sand, providing a base for vegetation, and eventually form new islands on top of the reef. Many of the Pacific Islands are Atolls.
More about different reef types can be found at:
- The National Geographic Society Encyclopedia entry on Reefs
- Understanding the Different Types of Reefs, from LiesurePro
- The Coral Reef Foundation's Types of Coral Reef Formations
- Coral Reef Zones, a video from the Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation