A classroom tool for visualizing the processes controlling coral reef development and demise
Understanding the complex interplay between coral reef growth, sea-level variations and tectonics is a major challenge in paleoclimate research. A continuing challenge for students is how to visualize the complex interplay of different geological processes through time. The Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) has developed ReefGrow v2.0, a Java-based program that numerically models and displays coral reef growth in 2D. The program was developed initially as a research tool but has educational applications as well. Based on straightforward mathematical algorithms, ReefGrow v2.0, realistically “grows” reefs in response to different variables (including subsidence or uplift rate, coral growth rate, sedimentation rate, dissolution rate when the reef is subaerially exposed). The program can import a bathymetric profile to use as the substrate, can import different sea level curves, and can vary the subsidence, or uplift, rates as a function of distance from the shoreline.
To download and run ReefGrow you will need Java v1.4 or higher. If you have Java properly installed, you should be able to download the reefgrow jar file (below) and double click it to launch. If this does not work, you can try running it from a command prompt with the command: “java -jar ReefGrow
ReefGrow Usage Video (reefgrow.wmv) – this 8 minute movie shows the ReefGrow program in use. It steps through how to run the software and to modify aspects of the underlying model.
MBARI provides software “as is”, with no warranty, express or implied, of the software quality or consistency. Software is provided without support and without obligation on the part of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute to assist in its use, correction, modification, or enhancement.
Here are some tips:
In the ReefGrow window: set up the model first by clicking “start” in the “Model” line; this uses default variables which you can see with “Show variables”. Then click “Start” in the “Animation” line and it will run through the animation based on that model.
You can change the model by changing values in the “Model variables” window (open the window by clicking “Show variables”; be sure to hit “Enter” there or the changes won’t take). Then reset the model to use the new variables by clicking “Start” in the “Model” line, and rerun the animation by clicking “Start” in the animation line.
To return to default variables, close and restart the program.
The default model is set up for the Mahukona reef terraces off the island of Hawaii. A variable that makes sense to change there is the coral’s growth rate (try making it grow really fast, like a value of 4 for “Grow Max Rate”, and you will see that fewer terraces form). You can run the model using different sea level curves, and for different regions than Mahukona by importing different substrate profiles and subsidence rates, under the File menu. Watch the ReefGrow Usage Video (above) for more instructions.