Constraining rapid sea level change through radiometric dating of corals growing over a range in paleowater depths

Elsevier, Quaternary Science Advances, Volume 7, July 2022
Esat T.M., Yokoyama Y., Webster J.M.

Corals do not all grow near the sea surface. Different species favour different ranges in depth and can survive at different depths from 0 to 5 m to over 0–100 m. Fossil corals, as markers of sea level, are the preferred choice in radiometric dating. Timing and magnitude of sea-level variations are determined from the location and age of a set of in-situ coral samples, and mark the lower bound in sea level. In addition, they have to be assigned an uncertainty to define the upper bound in sea level. This is referred to as the paleowater depth (PWD) and creates a major ambiguity in estimating the appropriate span of habitable depth in sea level. This uncertainty also has an impact on constraining the timing and magnitude of rapid changes in sea level. However, there are approaches that may minimize PWD uncertainties. These include assessing sea level data for groups of coral, during relatively stable sea levels, rather than individually. If samples were recovered in multiple drill-cores, along a sea-bed transect, tighter PWD constraints may apply for samples, in each core, depending on the magnitude of the slope of the sea bed. This method is particularly useful in cases of rapid sea level change over shallow continental shelves when the shift in the shoreline, with sea level change, is large. In these circumstances, the presence of a shallow-water reef established up or down-slope is indicative of a rapid change in sea level.