The extraordinary scale and magnitude of recent coral-reef degradation highlights the urgent need to better understand the long-term controls on reef decline and resilience. One way to gain insight into the future of coral-reef ecosystems is to evaluate their response to environmental disturbances in the past. Although the decline in Florida's coral populations is a recent phenomenon, we show that reef accretion has been negligible on the Florida Keys reef tract (FKRT) for several millennia. Using more than 60 reef cores from throughout the FKRT, we reconstructed region-wide trends in reef development over the last 10,000 years. We used these records to evaluate the relative contributions of regional changes in sea level, climate, and oceanography to the historic shutdown of reef building. Our results support previous research (i.e., the inimical waters hypothesis), which suggested that changes in regional oceanography associated with rising sea level contributed to the collapse of reefs in the middle Keys by the mid-Holocene; however, our records imply that these changes occurred at least 1000 years earlier than previously thought. Furthermore, the region-wide decline in reef accretion by the late Holocene indicates that the demise of Florida's reefs may have ultimately been driven by larger-scale changes in climate and/or sea level. We conclude that although the increasing frequency of environmental disturbances will likely continue to threaten reef development, local oceanography may have the potential to modulate the response of reefs to larger-scale perturbations.


Toth, L. T., U.S. Geological Survey, USA, ltoth@usgs.gov

Stathakopoulos, A., U.S. Geological Survey, USA, astathakopoulos@usgs.gov

Kuffner, I. B., U.S. Geological Survey, USA, ikuffner@usgs.gov

Shinn, E. A., University of South Florida, USA, eugeneshinn@mail.usf.edu


Oral presentation

Session #:18
Date: 06/22/2016
Time: 10:00
Location: 301 B

Presentation is given by student: No