Environmental significance of microbialites in reef environments during the last deglaciation

Camoin, G., Cabioch, G., Eisenhauer, Anton, Braga, J.-C., Hamelin, B. and Lericolais, G. (2006) Environmental significance of microbialites in reef environments during the last deglaciation Sedimentary Geology, 185 (3-4). pp. 277-295. DOI 10.1016/j.sedgeo.2005.12.018.

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In situ microbialites occurring in reef rocks dredged between 80 and 130 m water depth on the modern fore-reef slopes of Tahiti and the Marquesas islands yield ages ranging from 17,100 ± 2900 to 4410 ± 2250 years BP, suggesting that they played a prominent role during the last deglacial sea level rise.

Microbialites developed in both shallow and deep water depositional environments where they characterize various zones of the reef tracts (reef crests, upper reef slopes, deep fore-reef slopes), reflecting contrasting scenarios of microbialite development involving «reefal microbialites» in shallow-water settings and «slope microbialites» that formed in environments deeper than 10–20 m and extending down to more than 100 m.

Reefal microbialites correspond to a late stage of encrustation of the dead parts of coral colonies, or more commonly, of related encrusting organisms (red algae and foraminifers), thus forming surface crusts. Slope microbialites generally form the ultimate stage of a biological succession indicating a deepening sequence, whereby shallow water corals and associated encrusting organisms are replaced by deeper water assemblages of red algae and foraminifers before microbialite growth. The precipitation of phosphatic–iron–manganese crusts and the deposition of planktonic micritic limestones on the microbialites characterize a deepening-upward sequence.

The widespread development of microbialites in reef sequences from the Last Deglaciation characterizes a period of environmental degradation consequential on the rapid sea-level rise and abrupt climatic changes of that time. The reported biological succession reflects changes in water quality, and especially an increase in nutrients. In shallow-water settings, increased alkalinity and nutrient availability in interstitial waters were related to surface fluxes and terrestrial groundwater seepage while slope environments were exposed to continuous upwelling of nutrient-rich deeper waters during the last deglacial sea level rise.

The age differences between corals and overlying slope microbialites range from 1600 to 8400 years, based on high-precision U-series age measurements of both corals and microbialites, and indicates that a significant time (several thousand years) elapsed between the development of the coralgal frameworks and the growth of slope microbialite crusts. Microbialites cannot be considered as part of the drowning event some 14,000 years ago that resulted in the demise of reef frameworks in the 90–110 m present depth range, but are substantially younger.

Document Type: Article
Keywords: Coral reefs; Microbialites; Last deglaciation; Holocene; French polynesia; Nutrients; Sea level changes
Research affiliation: OceanRep > GEOMAR > FB2 Marine Biogeochemistry > FB2-MG Marine Geosystems
Refereed: Yes
DOI etc.: 10.1016/j.sedgeo.2005.12.018
ISSN: 0037-0738
Date Deposited: 03 Dec 2008 16:52
Last Modified: 06 Sep 2016 13:58
URI: http://eprints.uni-kiel.de/id/eprint/6357

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