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This book is mostly devoted to the description of temporal and spatial patterns of Phanerozoic reefs. We deliberately sacrificed detailed descriptions of particular reefs, in order to allow a focusing on large-scale patterns: the “big picture”. Several contributions in this volume observed trends and patters that contradict common paradigms and widely accepted ideas. In this summary paper we first critically discuss major conclusions achieved in this volume and then suggest how we can use the observations and conclusions to predict reef occurrences and attributes. This final section discusses what is needed to bridge the gap between patterns and processes, that is, how we can approach a sufficient understanding of the reef system as a whole.

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