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Extensive relict coral reef found in southern Pacific

Date:
August 31, 2010
Source:
American Geophysical Union
Summary:
Coral reefs are sensitive to climate change and track sea level. New observations show that an extensive coral reef existed in the southern Pacific Ocean thousands of years ago. Researchers used multi-beam sonar, coring, and dating to examine a relict reef discovered in water about 20-25 meters (65-82 feet) deep around Lord Howe Island in the southern Pacific Ocean.

Coral reefs are sensitive to climate change and track sea level. New observations show that an extensive coral reef existed in the southern Pacific Ocean thousands of years ago. Woodroffe et al. used multi-beam sonar, coring, and dating to examine a relict reef discovered in water about 20-25 meters (65-82 feet) deep around Lord Howe Island in the southern Pacific Ocean.

They found that the reef thrived from about 9,000 to 7,000 years ago and covered an area 20 times larger than the modern reef, which is the southernmost Pacific coral reef. About 7,000 years ago, the reef was drowned, probably due to abrupt sea level rise, and then shrunk to its modern extent.

The observation shows the extent to which reefs grew 9,000 years ago. Today coral reefs exist mainly in shallow seawater with sea surface temperatures greater than 18 degrees Celsius (64 degrees Fahrenheit), at latitudes near the equator. The relict reef shows that corals previously existed at southern latitudes farther from the equator.

The researchers note that as ocean temperatures warm due to climate change, the relict reef could become a substrate for new coral reef growth.

Authors of the study include: Colin D. Woodroffe, Michelle Linklater, Brian G. Jones: School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Wollongong, Wollongong, New South Wales, Australia; Brendan P. Brooke, Cameron Buchanan, Richard Mleczko: Geoscience Australia, Canberra, ACT, Australia; David M. Kennedy, School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences, Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand; Quan Hua, Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organization, Kirrawee, New South Wales, Australia; Jian-xin Zhao, Radiogenic Isotope Facility, Centre for Microscopy and Microanalysis, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by American Geophysical Union. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Colin D. Woodroffe, Brendan P. Brooke, Michelle Linklater, David M. Kennedy, Brian G. Jones, Cameron Buchanan, Richard Mleczko, Quan Hua, Jian-xin Zhao. Response of coral reefs to climate change: Expansion and demise of the southernmost Pacific coral reef. Geophysical Research Letters, 2010; 37 (15): L15602 DOI: 10.1029/2010GL044067

Cite This Page:

American Geophysical Union. "Extensive relict coral reef found in southern Pacific." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 31 August 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/08/100831094714.htm>.
American Geophysical Union. (2010, August 31). Extensive relict coral reef found in southern Pacific. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 17, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/08/100831094714.htm
American Geophysical Union. "Extensive relict coral reef found in southern Pacific." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/08/100831094714.htm (accessed April 17, 2014).

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