Fore Reef (aka "Reef Face")
The fore reef zone of a coral reef is the most seaward portion of the entire ecosystem. The composition of this area is commonly almost solid coral. This zone characteristically takes the form of a downward slope towards the ocean depths.
The fore reef zone (also often called the “reef face” or “reef front”) begins at the seaward base of the reef crest and extends to the lower limits of coral growth.
Here, the sea floor begins to slope downward – somewhat gently at first, and then ever more steeply.
This zone contains the greatest mass and diversity of hard corals found in coral reef ecosystems. It also is home to the greatest number of coral reef fish species of any of the three major reef zones.
For these reasons, along with the zone’s extensive depth range and ease of access from the open sea, this is where most recreational coral reef scuba diving occurs. In many cases the fore reef plunges abruptly to great depths, creating formations popularly known to scuba divers as “walls”.
Two distinctly different segments of this zone are generally recognized, respectively known as the “upper” and “lower” fore reef.