Abstract

R. Fairbridge and F. Shepard proposed different sea-level curves for the late Holocene. South Florida, as a tectonically stable platform, provides a key locale from which late Quaternary sea-level measurements have been attempted. Previous studies supporting Holocene sea-level curves have focused on mangrove peat deposits, barrier ridges, and archaeological sites. However, in situ biological indicators provide the best evidence in support of varying sea-level positions during the late Holocene. The northeastern side of Key Biscayne, Florida, has two areas of rock reef where rhizoliths (i.e., fossilized root casts) are exposed within the intertidal zone. They have previously been interpreted as the fossilized roots of a former black mangrove (Avicennia germinans) forest. However, the morphology, size, orientation, and areal extent of the rhizoliths is best understood if they are interpreted as the former root casts of turtle grass (Thalassia testudinum). This interpretation would constitute in situ biological evidence of a late Holocene sea-level position at least 0.5 m higher than at present. Previously published 14C dating of the calcareous paste inside the rhizoliths suggests that they formed 1–2 k.y. before present. This corresponds to a higher than present sea-level highstand supported by independent evidence from other areas in south Florida.

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