Controls on mid-Holocene fringing reef growth and termination in a high latitude, estuarine setting, Wellington Point, Southeast Queensland

Major, Josef (2012) Controls on mid-Holocene fringing reef growth and termination in a high latitude, estuarine setting, Wellington Point, Southeast Queensland. Masters by Research thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


Several fringing coral reefs in Moreton Bay, Southeast Queensland, some 300 km south of the Great Barrier Reef (GBR), are set in a relatively high latitude, estuarine environment that is considered marginal for coral growth. Previous work indicated that these marginal reefs, as with many fringing reefs of the inner GBR, ceased accreting in the mid-Holocene. This research presents for the first time data from the subsurface profile of the mid-Holocene fossil reef at Wellington Point comprising U/Th dates of in situ and framework corals, and trace element analysis from the age constrained carbonate fragments. Based on trace element proxies the palaeo-water quality during reef accretion was reconstructed. Results demonstrate that the reef initiated more than 7,000 yr BP during the post glacial transgression, and the initiation progressed to the west as sea level rose. In situ micro-atolls indicate that sea level was at least 1 m above present mean sea level by 6,680 years ago. The reef remained in "catch-up" mode, with a seaward sloping upper surface, until it stopped aggrading abruptly at ca 6,000 yr BP; no lateral progradation occurred.

Changes in sediment composition encountered in the cores suggest that after the laterite substrate was covered by the reef, most of the sediment was produced by the carbonate factory with minimal terrigenous influence. Rare earth element, Y and Ba proxies indicate that water quality during reef accretion was similar to oceanic waters, considered suitable for coral growth. A slight decline in water quality on the basis of increased Ba in the later stages of growth may be related to increased riverine input and partial closing up of the bay due to either tidal delta progradation, climatic change and/or slight sea level fall. The age data suggest that termination of reef growth coincided with a slight lowering of sea level, activation of ENSO and consequent increase in seasonality, lowering of temperatures and the constrictions to oceanic flushing. At the cessation of reef accretion the environmental conditions in the western Moreton Bay were changing from open marine to estuarine. The living coral community appears to be similar to the fossil community, but without the branching Acropora spp. that were more common in the fossil reef. In this marginal setting coral growth periods do not always correspond to periods of reef accretion due to insufficient coral abundance. Due to several environmental constraints modern coral growth is insufficient for reef growth. Based on these findings Moreton Bay may be unsuitable as a long term coral refuge for most species currently living in the GBR.

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ID Code: 63964
Item Type: QUT Thesis (Masters by Research)
Supervisor: Webb, Gregory, Cox, Malcolm, & Nothdurft, Luke
Keywords: Acropora, aggradation, corals, environmental conditions, Favia, fringing reef, incipient reef, marginal reef, micro-atoll, Moreton Bay, rare earth elements, transgression, sea level
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Science & Engineering Faculty
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 04 Nov 2013 05:56
Last Modified: 01 Sep 2015 00:23

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