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    Dataset was collated from surveys in the west side of Vavvaru Island, Lhaviyani Atoll, Maldives. The data were collected as a series of triplicate 25 m x 2 m transecs parallel to shore, at three locations on the reef flat: near (70 m from the shore), mid (140 m from the shore) and far (210 m from the shore). All locations were at similar depths of 1 m. This took place during March 2015. Along each transect the number and size of all coralliths and total number of non-free living individuals were recorded, alongside with several environmental parameters (Water Temperature, Photosynthetically Available Radiation (PAR), Total Alkalinity, Dissolved Inorganic Carbon and Dissolved Oxygen). Abundance and size of coralliths was recorded through non-invasive techniques and the environmental parameters were obtained through multiple instruments: Fluorometer, Oxygen sensor, spectrophotometry, Titration and a PAR logger. The aim was to examine whether corals have the capacity to create their own stable habitat through 'free-living stabilisation'. The work was supported by an Independent Research Fellowship from NERC to Sebastian Hennige (NE/K009028/1; NE/K009028/2), an Independent Research Fellowship from the Marine Alliance for Science & Technology for Scotland to Heidi Burnett, an Independent Research Fellowship from the Royal Society of Edinburgh / Scottish Government (RSE 48701/1) and NERC (NE/H010025) to Nick Kamenos, a Gilchrist Fieldwork Award to Heidi Burnett, Sebastian Hennige and Nick Kamenos by the Gilchrist Educational Trust, administered by the Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers), and a Research Incentive Grant from the Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland to Heidi Burnett, Sebastian Hennige and Nick Kamenos (grant # 70013). Field sampling was under permission from the Maldives Ministry of Fisheries and Agriculture ((OTHR) 30-D/lNDIV/2015).