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Siltation is the deposition and accumulation of land-based soils and sediments due to erosion. Corals are particularly sensitive to increased rates of siltation and are easily stressed by sediments smothering them or preventing light from reaching them. Though siltation can be a result of natural erosion processes along the coast as a result of wave action or storms, increasing rates of siltation in localized areas are often the result of human activities that change existing habitats and land use. Corals are unable to withstand cover by sediments for periods longer than a couple days and they must spend energy that could be used for other functions to rid themselves of fine silts (Clark 1996). The capacity of corals to clean off fine particles of sediment by action of their polyps and ciliary movements depends on the corals themselves (Clark 1996). Typically corals living closer to coastlines and on fringing reefs are more efficient cleaners than are species that live on the outer reef slope.
Siltation from river runoff. Philippines (J.W. McManus, from ReefBase: http://www.reefbase.org)
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