Abstract

The last deglaciation is characterized by a rapid sea-level rise and coeval abrupt environmental changes. The Barbados coral reef record suggests that this period has been punctuated by two brief intervals of accelerated melting (meltwater pulses, MWP), occurring at 14.08–13.61 ka and 11.4–11.1 ka (calendar years before present), that are superimposed on a smooth and continuous rise of sea level. Although their timing, magnitude, and even existence have been debated, those catastrophic sea-level rises are thought to have induced distinct reef drowning events. The reef response to sea-level and environmental changes during the last deglacial sea-level rise at Tahiti is reconstructed based on a chronological, sedimentological, and paleobiological study of cores drilled through the relict reef features on the modern forereef slopes during the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program Expedition 310, complemented by results on previous cores drilled through the Papeete reef. Reefs accreted continuously between 16 and 10 ka, mostly through aggradational processes, at growth rates averaging 10 mm yr−1. No cessation of reef growth, even temporary, has been evidenced during this period at Tahiti. Changes in the composition of coralgal assemblages coincide with abrupt variations in reef growth rates and characterize the response of the upward-growing reef pile to nonmonotonous sea-level rise and coeval environmental changes. The sea-level jump during MWP 1A, 16 ± 2 m of magnitude in ∼350 yr, induced the retrogradation of shallow-water coral assemblages, gradual deepening, and incipient reef drowning. The Tahiti reef record does not support the occurrence of an abrupt reef drowning event coinciding with a sea-level pulse of ∼15 m, and implies an apparent rise of 40 mm yr−1 during the time interval corresponding to MWP 1B at Barbados.

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