Using the Goldilocks Principle to model coral ecosystem engineering

S. J. Hennige, A. I. Larsson, C. Orejas, A. Gori, L. H. De Clippele, Y. C. Lee, G. Jimeno, K. Georgoulas, N. A. Kamenos, J. M. Roberts

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)
28 Downloads (Pure)


The occurrence and proliferation of reef-forming corals is of vast importance in terms of the biodiversity they support and the ecosystem services they provide. The complex three-dimensional structures engineered by corals are comprised of both live and dead coral, and the function, growth and stability of these systems will depend on the ratio of both. To model how the ratio of live : dead coral may change, the 'Goldilocks Principle' can be used, where organisms will only flourish if conditions are 'just right'. With data from particle imaging velocimetry and numerical smooth particle hydrodynamic modelling with two simple rules, we demonstrate how this principle can be applied to a model reef system, and how corals are effectively optimizing their own local flow requirements through habitat engineering. Building on advances here, these approaches can be used in conjunction with numerical modelling to investigate the growth and mortality of biodiversity supporting framework in present-day and future coral reef structures.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20211260
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1956
Publication statusPublished - 11 Aug 2021


  • Goldilocks Principle
  • Lophelia pertusa
  • coral
  • flow velocity
  • particle image velocimetry
  • smoothed-particle hydrodynamics modelling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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