• A concise account of the most biodiverse ocean ecosystem
  • Explains how coral reefs are created and have evolved
  • Explores the geological and biological importance coral reefs hold and what we have learnt from them
  • Emphasizes the threats they face and the conservation efforts in place
  • Ideal for students of the biological sciences and marine biology

Coral reefs have been long regarded with awe by the millions of people who have encountered them over the centuries. Early seafarers were wary of them, naturalists were confused by them, yet many coastal people benefited greatly from these mysterious rocky structures that grew up to the surface of the sea. They have been rich in their supply of food, and they provided a breakwater from storms and high waves to countless coastal communities that developed from their protection. Their scale is enormous and their value high. Found in countless locations around the world, from the Indo-Pacific coral reef province to the Caribbean and Australia, they support both marine and human life. 
In this Very Short Introduction, Charles Sheppard provides an account of what coral reefs are, how they are formed, how they have evolved, and the biological lessons we can learn from them. Today, the vibrancy and diversity of these fascinating ecosystems are under threat from over exploitation and could face future extinction, unless our conservation efforts are stepped up in order to save them.


1: Geology or biology?
2: Ancient reefs
3: The architects of a reef
4: The resulting structure - a reef
5: Microbial and planktonic engines of the reef
6: Reef fish and major predators
7: Growing pressures on reef ecosystems
8: Climate change and reefs
9: Doing something about it
Further reading


Charles Sheppard, Professor in the School of Life Sciences, University of Warwick
Charles Sheppard's research focuses mainly on community ecology, particularly on ecosystem responses to climate change. He works for a number of UN, Governmental, and aid agencies to advise on topical marine and costal developmental issues. He is the author or editor of 10 books, including The Biology of Coral Reefs (OUP, 2009).

Coral reefs are among the most biodiverse of ecosystems. In this Very Short Introduction, Charles Sheppard tells the fascinating story of how and where coral reefs are formed and the diversity of marine life they support. He also highlights the threats they face due to exploitation and the conservation efforts in place to tackle these issues.

Coral Reefs


Charles R. Sheppard





Coral Reefs: A Very Short Introduction