Reefs are an organism-sediment mosaic. It is a delicate balance between the upward growth of large skeletal metazoans, the continuing destruction of these same organisms by a host or rasping, boring, and grazing organisms, and the prolithic sediment production by rapidly growing, short lived, attached calcareous benthos.

An analysis of the processes that interact to produce characteristic internal structures in reefs recognizes 5 such processes: (1) growth or primary framework, (2) growth or entrusting secondary framework, (3) boring action of organisms, (4) particulate sediment production and deposition, and (5) cementation.