Caribbean Reef Response to Plio-Pleistocene Climate Change: Results of the Dominican Republic Drilling Project (DRDP)
Monday, 15 December 2014
Caribbean reefs changed profoundly in taxonomic composition, diversity, and dominance structure during late Pliocene and Pleistocene climatic change. These changes coincide with protracted climatic deterioration and cooling between 2.0 to 0.8 Ma, and the onset of high amplitude sea-level fluctuations ~400 ka. The Dominican Republic Drilling Project (DRDP) was initiated to determine how climate change and global high-amplitude sea level changes influenced depositional patterns in Pliocene to Recent reef systems of the Caribbean. A transect of 7 core borings (~700 m total depth) were collected along the southern coast of the DR. New age constraints based on U/Th geochronometry and radiogenic Sr isotopes, combined with depositional lithofacies, faunal indicators, and stable isotope profiles have allowed us to correlate between wells and define the internal anatomy and stratal geometry of the individual reef sigmoids and sigmoid sets. Faunal records suggest most extinction occurred prior to ~1 Ma. Following this extinction, fringing reef margins of the Caribbean display a characteristic zonation in which Acropora palmata dominates shallow high-energy reef crests and Acropora cervicornis calmer fore-reef slopes and backreef lagoons. The dominance of acroporids across this zonation has been attributed to growth rates 5-100 times faster than other corals.