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Influence of hydrodynamic energy on Holocene reef flat accretion, Great Barrier Reef

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 January 2017

Belinda Dechnik*
Geocoastal Research Group, School of Geosciences, University of Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia
Jody M. Webster
Geocoastal Research Group, School of Geosciences, University of Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia
Luke Nothdurft
School of Earth, Environment and Biological Sciences, QLD University of Technology, Gardens Point, QLD 4000, Australia
Gregory E. Webb
School of Earth Sciences, The University of QLD, St Lucia, QLD 4072, Australia
Jian-xin Zhao
School of Earth Sciences, The University of QLD, St Lucia, QLD 4072, Australia
Stephanie Duce
Geocoastal Research Group, School of Geosciences, University of Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia
Juan C. Braga
Departamento de Estratigrafia y Paleontologia, Universidad de Granada, Granada, Spain
Daniel L. Harris
Leibniz Center for Tropical Marine Ecology (ZMT) and Center for Marine Environmental Science (MARUM), Bremen University, Bremen, Germany
Ana Vila-Concejo
Geocoastal Research Group, School of Geosciences, University of Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia
Marji Puotinen
Australian Institute of Marine Science, WA 6009, Australia
Corresponding author at: School of Geosciences (F09), University of Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia. E-mail (B. Dechnik).


The response of platform reefs to sea-level stabilization over the past 6 ka is well established for the Great Barrier Reef (GBR), with reefs typically accreting laterally from windward to leeward. However, these observations are based on few cores spread across reef zones and may not accurately reflect a reef's true accretional response to the Holocene stillstand. We present a new record of reef accretion based on 49 U/Th ages from Heron and One Tree reefs in conjunction with re-analyzed data from 14 reefs across the GBR. We demonstrate that hydrodynamic energy is the main driver of accretional direction; exposed reefs accreted primarily lagoon-ward while protected reefs accreted seawards, contrary to the traditional growth model in the GBR. Lateral accretion rates varied from 86.3 m/ka–42.4 m/ka on the exposed One Tree windward reef and 68.35 m/ka–15.7 m/ka on the protected leeward Heron reef, suggesting that wind/wave energy is not a dominant control on lateral accretion rates. This represents the most comprehensive statement of lateral accretion direction and rates from the mid-outer platform reefs of the GBR, confirming great variability in reef flat growth both within and between reef margins over the last 6 ka, and highlighting the need for closely-spaced transects.

Original Articles
University of Washington

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