Abstract This study sought to understand short-term spatial changes in accretion and erosion on (experimental) carbonate blocks on three coral reefs of the Ryukyu Islands, Japan. The principal objectives were to differentiate net accretion/erosion according to season, location, depth and substrate-type. At all locations the summer season showed more positive net weight changes and higher coralline algal coverage than the winter season. Windward reefs revealed higher net accretion and higher coralline algal coverage than leeward reefs. Massive (Holocene) Porites blocks showed highest net loss, followed by Pleistocene carbonate and (Holocene) Acropora blocks. High population densities of Echinometra mathaei (de Blainville) were recorded on reefs adjacent to large human populations and overall net carbonate loss significantly correlated to densities of E. mathaei type A.