Submerged Humid Tropical Karst Landforms Observed By High-Resolution Multibeam Survey in Nagura Bay, Ishigaki Island, Southwestern Japan
Abstract:Submerged tropical karst features were discovered in Nagura Bay on Ishigaki Island in the South Ryukyu Islands, Japan. This is the first description of submerged humid tropical karst using multibeam bathymetry. We conducted a broadband multibeam survey in the central area of Nagura Bay (1.85 × 2.7 km) and visualized the high-resolution bathymetric results with a grid size of 1 m over a depth range of 1.6–58.5 m. Various types of humid tropical karst landforms were found to coexist within the bay, including fluviokarst, doline karst, cockpit karst, polygonal karst, uvalas, and mega-dolines.
We assume that Nagura Bay was a large karst basin in which older limestone remained submerged, thus preventing corrosion and the accumulation of reef sediments during periods of submersion, whereas the limestone outcropping on land was corroded during multiple interglacial and glacial periods. Based on our bathymetric result together with aerial photographs of the coastal area, we conclude that the submerged karst landscape has likely developed throughout the whole of Nagura Bay, covering an area of ~6 × 5 km. Accordingly, this area hosts the largest submerged karst in Japan.
We also observed abundant coral communities during our SCUBA observations. The present marine conditions of Nagura Bay are characterized by low energy (calm sea) and low irradiance owing to the terrestrial influence. Such conditions have been emphasized by the presence of large undulating landforms, which cause decreases in wave intensity and irradiance with depth. These characteristics have acted to establish unique conditions compared to other coral reef areas in the Ryukyu Islands. It may play an important role in supporting the regional coral reef ecosystem.