Contrasts within an Outlier-Reef System: Evidence for Differential Quaternary Evolution, South Florida Windward Margin, U.S.A.

Barbara H. Lidz, Eugene A. Shinn, Albert C. Hine, Stanley D. Locker


Closely spaced, high-resolution, seismic-reflection profiles acquired off the upper Florida Keys ( i.e., north) reveal a platform-margin reef-and-trough system grossly similar to, yet quite different from, that previously described off the lower Keys (i.e., south). Profiles and maps generated for both areas show that development was controlled by antecedent Pleistocene topography (presence or absence of an upper-slope bedrock terrace), sediment availability, fluctuating sea level, and coral growth rate and distribution. The north terrace is sediment-covered and exhibits linear, buried, low-relief, seismic features of unknown character and origin. The south terrace is essentially sediment-free and supports multiple, massive, high-relief outlier reefs. Uranium disequilibrium series dates on outlier-reef corals indicate a Pleistocene age (~83-80 ka). A massive Pleistocene reef with both aggradational (north) and progradational (south) aspects forms the modern margin escarpment landward of the terrace. Depending upon interpretation (the north margin-escarpment reef mayor may not be an outlier reef), the north margin is either more advanced or less advanced than the south margin. During Holocene sea-level rise, Pleistocene bedrock was inundated earlier and faster first to the north (deeper offbank terrace), then to the south (deeper platform surface). Holocene overgrowth is thick (8 m) on the north outer-bank reefs but thin (0.3m) on the south outlier reefs. Differential evolution resulted from interplay between fluctuating sea level and energy regime established by prevailing east-southeasterly winds and waves along an arcuate (ENE-WSW) platform margin.


Florida Keys and reef tract (USA); arcuate paleomargin; antecedent Pleistocene bedrock topography; upper-slope bedrock terrace; stillstand beach-dune ridges; sea-level fluctuations; protective rock-island barriers; Pleistocene and Holocene coral-reef

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