Holocene reef building on eastern St. Croix, US Virgin Islands: Lang Bank Revisited
New core and seismic data suggest that widespread reef building started on Lang Bank by 8,900 CalBP and was dominated by Acropora palmata for the next three millennia. Accretion rates averaged 5.81 m ky−1, a rate that was sufficient for reefs to keep pace with rising sea level on the bank throughout their history. Seismic data show a deep platform interior that was flooded well in advance of reef building along the elevated rim. As a result, those reefs were buffered from sediment stress by their higher positions and active water flow to the west. A. palmata disappeared from the shallow margin by 6,350 yr ago, and reef building on Lang Bank largely ceased by 5,035 CalBP. The reasons for these dramatic events are unclear. Water depth over the reefs was generally shallower than when they started to build, and sea level was slowing dramatically. The new data described here show that reefs flourished on Lang Bank throughout the hiatus suggested by earlier studies (10–7 kyrs BP), and the ultimate demise of shelf-edge reefs is clearly not associated with either poor water quality or sudden sea-level rise. In addition, accretion rates from eastern St. Croix and throughout the Caribbean were well below the high values (≥10 m ky−1) that have been widely assumed. These data collectively argue against models that require extreme environmental or oceanographic phenomena to drown reefs on Lang Bank where reef building was too fast to be outpaced by Holocene sea-level rise. This also bears on more generalized Caribbean models that depend on the presumed reef history on eastern St. Croix.
Hubbard, D.K., I.P. Gill, and R.B. Burke. 2013. “Holocene reef building on eastern St. Croix, US Virgin Islands: Lang Bank Revisited.” Coral Reefs 32(3): 653-669.
Reef accretion, Holocene, St. Croix, Caribbean, Sea level, Backstepping