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   Since this area is never exposed during the low tides, a wide variety of macro algae can be found creating a carpet clinging onto the numerous rocks and rubble. Within a ten square foot area, there are numerous species of macro algae, although the calurpa species are rarely, if ever found. The following species of algae are the most commonly seen, Actinotrichia fragilis, Galaxaura fastigiata, Gracilaria salicornia, Gracilaria tikvahiae and Padina sp.. Mixed in amongst the previous species are quite a few other species including the Halimeda and Bubble algae. All combined, makes for a luxurious habitat for a myriad of small creatures.
   A great number of worms, copepods, amphipods, isopods as well as a good many crab and shrimp species make up the bulk of the smaller animals. The more larger species include the xanthid crab family, Mantis shrimp, along with a good number of snails, of which most species are members of the Whelk and Cone families, all predators. Very few snail herbivores are found, which came as a surprise to me given the abundance of algae. Fish species that make this area their home include the pipe fish, file fish, small wrasse and of course the ever present damsels.


   Even with the vast amount of algae competition, there are still a few corals that can be found, somehow managing to get by. I say that because not only do the corals found in this zone have to compete with much faster growing algae, they also have to endure pretty harsh conditions as compared to their brethren found in deeper waters. Temperatures during the lulls between tides can easily reach close to ninety degrees Fahrenheit as well as having to protect themselves against a full days worth of ultra violet light. To make things even more difficult, at low tides, a great many local people wander this zone turning over just about every rock in search of edible animals.
   What I found when I first arrived here had me quite puzzled, as I would turn over (and replace) rocks in my search for specimens, I would find small corals and algae alive on the side of the rock that was face down in the sand / rubble. This left me wondering for quite some time until I realized that there are so many people turning the rocks over every day, that each side of the rocks get their turn in the sun. The corals and algae can somehow endure a day or two of being in the dark and laying against the sand.

  Being comprised of loose rubble and larger rocks, makes for a great many crevices that are used as shelter and hunting grounds for a variety of gobys, mantis shrimp and snapping shrimp species. Some areas have so much rubble that it can be a few feet deep which sand has stabilized to an extent by filling in the gaps further down. This still leaves a lot of open room between the rubble nearer the surface, and as with any open room on a reef, it will be home to something one way or another. Some animals enlarge and extend these gaps to suit their own needs. Most notably the gobys. Whom I have seen create very extensive networks of tunnels, usually always leading to a large unmovable rock. I see this area as being much like a sand bed, only on a much larger scale with its huge grains and equally large infauna.

A large sea hare which hides under rocks during daylight & A sponge species that is tolerant to air exposure at low tides

  There are also patches of area that do not have such rubble, yet are at the same depth and distance from shore, comprised of exposed lava base rock that has been colonized by a number of coral species. A mini coral reef if you will. Keeping with the mini theme, the lava substrate has small formations that jut upwards much like the larger outcroppings on the coral reef. Each of these mini outcroppings can hold a few coral species yet the majority of them can only sustain a single species, and again, all in a mini form as there is no where else to grow horizontally and the shallow depth limits any upward growth. Between these features are bare sand areas no more than a few inches deep. Not much visible life to be found in this shallow sand other than a few olive snails and the odd polychaete worm.


  Of course this rocky and rubble strewn area is filled with what I know as being called live rock. I have on many occasions brought home a few rocks at a time from this area, to explore what life can be found living on as well as in such rocks. I believe I will never get over the amazement of seeing just how much life a single rock can be home for. I have documented probably hundreds of different species in a great number of animal familys and continue to find more to this day. All of the animals that I have found thus far can be seen within my hitch hiker pages.  Below are just a few samples of what can be found.


Summary : With the vast amount of macro algae present, I believe this zone does the bulk of the dissolved nutrient processing while at the same time, providing the coral reef with an abundance of plankton as an addition to what the oceanic currents sweep in. This area is also the coral reefs last line of defense against shore based sediments and other run off pollutants / nutrients. With its vast network of tunnels and spaces between the rubble, a great deal of detritus production and processing must take place.

Application within the Reef Keeping Hobby : As a refugium habitat set up in its own dedicated yet connected aquarium, a substrate comprised of walnut sized rock rubble at a depth of at least six to eight inches with a macro algae covering would most likely create a reef food making machine. With all of the gaps provided for by the rubble, a number of worm species and snapping shrimp would find themselves right at home and produce a good deal of "plankton" through their breeding efforts while also doing a lot of nutrient processing with the macro algae cover absorbing dissolved nutrients, which can then be trimmed and thrown away (exported).

The Human Factor  -  With the low tides allowing waders access to this area, a good deal of the larger rock rubble is disturbed in their quest for edible animals. While this may be an inconvenient to the smaller animals having to rebuild their homes, the majority of the damage is again, caused by leaving the larger rocks turned upside down as well as the physical damage done to the macro algae by being walked upon. The areas of mini reefs that I mentioned also see their share of damage as people step on and break off any extending coral growth. Such breakage is actually how I managed to stock a good deal of my aquarium since it made me feel slightly better that I was somehow rescuing coral fragments that I thought would be doomed instead of taking established, healthy specimens from the reef itself.

The removal of any and all herbivores

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This mirror is being hosted with the permissions of the original content creator for preservation and educational purposes.