First deepwater fossil study of Great Barrier Reef

Analyses of the deepwater, or mesophotic, reefs of the Great Barrier Reef has shown how the reef responds to global sea level rise and environmental change over thousands of years.

These mesophotic reef systems have been an important part of the reef’s geologic past, and yet have been highly sensitive to past environmental changes, such as sea level rises and increased sediment flux.

There were two distinct generations of fossil mesophotic coral community in the Great Barrier Reef - the first period was from 13000 until 10200 years ago, and the second period was from 7800 years ago until now.

The study found the gap of over 2000 years between the two periods was interrupted by massive sediment flux, with sediment moving from the reef shelf to the basin. This movement of sediment happened as sea levels rose, flooding an area of the shelf.

These findings will be crucial in monitoring and forecasting the deepwater reef in the future.

Read more at University of Sydney