Protocols for improving sea-level reconstructions in the western Atlantic

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Anastasios Stathakopoulos (Oceanographer) and Lauren Toth (Research Oceanographer) published a new article titled “A revised Holocene coral sea-level database from the Florida reef tract, USA.”

Sea-level reconstruction is a valuable method used by researchers for understanding past sea-level changes. It also provides critical baseline information for projections of future sea-level rise. In the tropical and subtropical western Atlantic, reef-building corals are commonly used as indicators for tracking past sea level.

This collaborative study builds upon nearly 50 years of research conducted by USGS scientists and others by compiling and examining Holocene (the last ~11,700 years) coral-reef core records collected from over 30 locations throughout the south-Florida region (https://doi.org/10.7717/peerj.8350).

The publication characterizes the core records to a new level of detail that is more useful for sea-level reconstruction. It provides new data-screening protocols that can be applied to filter out poor-quality or questionable coral sea-level data, allowing researchers to only incorporate the highest-quality data in their coral-based sea-level reconstruction.

Furthermore, this publication provides a framework for researchers to evaluate coral data-selection criteria and thus increase the robustness of sea-level models from coral-reef locations throughout the western Atlantic.

A scientist holds a piece of a coral-reef core that is over 6,000 years old

This piece of a core sample taken from offshore of the Fort Lauderdale region of Florida is from an elkhorn coral that lived 6,200 years ago. Coral type, orientation of corallites, and evidence of other fauna and characteristics within the core sample are used to determine how reliable the coral sample is to use for past sea-level reconstruction. Here, USGS Oceanographer Anastasios Stathakopoulos points to an assemblage of intergrown organisms that includes vermetid worms (small brown circles), crustose coralline algae (white layers) and encrusting foraminifera (thin pink/purple layers) which encrust the surface of the coral skeleton (off-white color). The presence of these intergrown encrusting organisms helps scientists estimate the depth at which this coral lived. This core is stored in the USGS core archive in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Credit: Meaghan Faletti, USGS. Public domain.)

Several pieces of coral arranged in rows in a cardboard box

This core sample was taken from an elkhorn coral reef offshore of the Fort Lauderdale region of Florida. Samples from coral skeletons are taken from numerous locations in the core for radiocarbon dating, which tells scientists the age of each coral and of sections within the reef. The corals in this core lived from 7,100 to 6,200 years ago. Coral type, orientation of corallites, and evidence of other fauna and characteristics within the core are used to determine how reliable the coral samples are to use for past sea-level reconstruction. This core is stored in the USGS core archive in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Credit: Meaghan Faletti, USGS. Public domain.)

 

 

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