Variation in deglacial coralgal assemblages and their paleoenvironmental significance: IODP Expedition 310, "Tahiti Sea Level"

Elizabeth Abbey, Jody M. Webster, Juan C. Braga, Kaoru Sugihara, Carden Wallace, Yasufumi Iryu, Donald Potts, Terry Done, Gilbert Camoin, Claire Seard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Citations (Scopus)


Fossil reefs are valuable recorders of paleoenvironmental changes during the last deglaciation, and detailed characterizations of coralgal assemblages can improve understanding of the behavior and impacts of sea-level rise. Drilling in 2005 by the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP) Expedition 310 explored submerged offshore reefs from three locations around Tahiti, French Polynesia and provides the first look at island-wide variability of coralgal assemblages during deglacial sea-level rise. We present the first detailed examination of coral and coralline algal taxonomy and morphology from two sites on Tahiti (offshore Tiarei and offshore Maraa). Sixteen cores ranging in depth from 122. m to 45. m below sea-level represent reef growth from 16. ka to ca. 8. ka (Camoin, G.F., Iryu, Y., McInroy, D.B. and the IODP Expedition 310 Scientists, 2007. IODP Expedition 310 reconstructs sea level, climatic, and environmental changes in the South Pacific during the last deglaciation. Scientific Drilling, 5: 4-12). Twenty-six coral species, twelve coral genera and twenty-eight coralline algal species were identified from 565. m of core and over 400 thin sections. Based on these data, and in comparison with modern and fossil analogs, seven coral and four algal assemblages have been identified in the deglacial sequences in Tahiti, representing a range of environments from less than 10. m to greater than 20-30. m water depth. Deglacial reef initiation varied at sites based on the available substrate, and early colonizers suggest water conditions at all sites were unfavorable to sensitive corals, such as Acropora, prior to ca. 12.5. ka. Mainly shallow-water (<10-15 m) corals and coralline algal assemblages developed continuously throughout both sites from 16. ka to ca. 8. ka, suggesting that coralgal assemblage variation is more influenced by factors such as turbidity and water chemistry than sea-level rise alone.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
JournalGlobal and Planetary Change
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 2011 Mar


  • Coralgal assemblages
  • IODP Expedition 310 "Tahiti Sea Level"
  • Last deglaciation
  • Paleoenvironmental change
  • Tahiti


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