World Atlas of Coral Reefs

Mark D. Spalding, Corinna Ravilious + Edmund P. Green

University of California Press 2001
A book review by Danny Yee © 2002
The World Atlas of Coral Reefs begins with eighty pages of general information. Chapter one surveys the geology, geography, and biology of coral reefs, describing patterns in their diversity and some of the more prominent organisms found on them. Chapter two looks at changing human uses of reefs, at the growth of tourism and diving, and at some of the threats reefs face — pollution, sedimentation, unsustainable fishing, direct physical damage, bleaching, crown-of-thorns starfish, coral disease — and conservation responses. And a brief third chapter on reef mapping covers both its history and modern techniques.

The bulk of the Atlas is a world-wide survey of reefs, region by region and country by country. (I skimmed much of this, reading in full only the sections on Indonesia, Australia, and a few other countries.) For each significant reef area, this covers the same topics surveyed in chapters one and two, but with local details. I found this quite readable, even when it goes into detail about such things as currents and species numbers, but the outstanding feature of the Atlas is its maps. Produced just for this volume, these show areas of reef and mangroves and mark the location of dive centres and protected areas. They are on a generous scale, with seven full-page maps covering Australian reefs, for example: one overall map, one for each of the west and northern coasts, and four covering the Great Barrier Reef and the Coral Sea. The least interesting material, in contrast, is a table for each country listing all the protected reef areas, with their status, size, and the date they were created. This really could have been left to an appendix in a smaller font, or even relegated to a web site somewhere.

All of this is liberally illustrated with colour photographs, but though effective these are relatively small, mostly around an eighth or a quarter of a (quarto) page in size, and the Atlas makes no attempt at "coffee table" status. Fairly extensive bibliographies at the end of each chapter contribute to the academic feel. Although it should attract substantial numbers of general readers, the primary audience for the World Atlas of Coral Reefs will be marine biologists, conservationists, and divers.

March 2002

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%T World Atlas of Coral Reefs
%A Spalding, Mark D.
%A Ravilious, Corinna
%A Green, Edmund P.
%I University of California Press
%D 2001
%O hardcover, colour photographs, bibliographies, index
%G ISBN 0520232550
%P 424pp