New evidence for drowned shelf edge reefs in the Great Barrier Reef, Australia
January 01, 2008

Authors: Beaman, R.J., Webster, J.M., Wust, R.A.J.

Year: 2008

Publication: Marine Geology 247: 17-34. doi:10.1016/j.margeo.2007.08.001


We present four new high-resolution multibeam bathymetry datasets from the shelf edge of the northern Great Barrier Reef (GBR). Analysis of these data, combined with Chirp sub-bottom profiles and existing submersible observation data provides a fresh insight into the detailed morphology and spatial distribution of submerged reefs and terraces at the shelf edge.

An extensive and persistent line of drowned shelf edge reefs exist on the GBR margin in about 40 to 70 m. They appear as barrier reefs up to 200 m wide and comprising twin parallel ridges of rounded pinnacles. Subtle yet consistent terrace and step features lie between 78 to 114 m seaward of the shelf edge reefs in the southern study area. Submersible observations confirm that the drowned reefs now provide a favorable hard substrate for live soft corals and algae. They form a consistent and extensive seabed habitat that extends for possibly 900 km along the GBR shelf edge.

The submerged reef and terraces features may reflect a complex history of growth and erosion during lower sea-levels, and are now capped by last deglaciation reef material.

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