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A revised Holocene coral sea-level database from the Florida reef tract, USA

January 20, 2020

The coral reefs and mangrove habitats of the south Florida region have long been
used in sea-level studies for the western Atlantic because of their broad geographic
extent and composition of sea-level tracking biota. The data from this region have
been used to support several very different Holocene sea-level reconstructions (SLRs)
over the years. However, many of these SLRs did not incorporate all available coral-based
data, in part because detailed characterizations necessary for inclusion into
sea-level databases were lacking. Here, we present an updated database comprised
of 303 coral samples from published sources that we extensively characterized for
the first time. The data were carefully screened by evaluating and ranking the visual
taphonomic characteristics of every dated sample within the database, which resulted
in the identification of 134 high-quality coral samples for consideration as suitable
sea-level indicators. We show that our database largely agrees with the most recent
SLR for south Florida over the last ~7,000 years; however, the early Holocene remains
poorly characterized because there are few high-quality data spanning this period.
Suggestions to refine future Holocene SLRs in the region are provided including
filling spatial and temporal data gaps of coral samples, particularly from the early
Holocene, as well as constructing a more robust peat database to better constrain sea-level
variability during the middle to late Holocene. Our database and taphonomic-ranking
protocol provide a framework for researchers to evaluate data-selection
criteria depending on the robustness of their sea-level models.