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Microbialites in Last Glacial Maximum and deglacial reefs of the Great Barrier Reef (IODP Expedition 325, NE Australia)

Braga, Juan C., Puga-Bernabéu, Ángel, Heindel, Katrin, Patterson, Madhavi A., Birgel, Daniel, Peckmann, Jörn, Sánchez-Almazo, Isabel M., Webster, Jody M., Yokoyama, Yusuke, Riding, Robert
Palaeogeography, palaeoclimatology, palaeoecology 2019 v.514 pp. 1-17
biomarkers, calcite, carbon, carbon dioxide, carbonates, coatings, corals, euphotic zone, fabrics, glaciation, grains, lipids, nutrient content, radiometry, reefs, seawater, sediments, stable isotopes, sulfate-reducing bacteria, Australia, Great Barrier Reef
Microbialites are volumetrically abundant components in Last Glacial Maximum and deglacial reefs in the Australian Great Barrier Reef sampled by IODP Expedition 325 in 34 holes from 17 sites (M0030–M0058), along four transects on the shelf edge. Detailed radiometric datings show that four distinct reef phases developed between 28and 10 ka, displaying offlapping and then backstepping patterns. The reef boundstone facies include coralgal, coralgal-microbialite and microbialite boundstone. The microbialite consists of combinations of micrite/microspar, bioclasts, siliciclastic grains (up to 14.5%), fenestrae and encrusting epibionts. The micrite/microspar is high-magnesian calcite commonly irregularly clotted, fenestral and peloidal. Mesoscale microbialite fabrics include laminated, structureless, digitate, intraskeletal and boring-filling, and coatings on debris. Intraskeletal and boring-filling is the first fabric to develop in skeletal voids and borings. It is usually followed by structureless and laminated microbialite, locally overlain by digitate fabric. Microbialite-coated debris can occur at any stage in this succession, including in bioclastic accumulations where the scarce in situ framework builders are mainly encrusting corals. Lipid biomarkers of intermediate to high specificity for sulfate-reducing bacteria, together with δ13C values of these lipids, indicate that microbialite formation was favored by sulfate-reducing bacteria in anoxic microenvironments, probably under high nutrient levels. The microbialite in fore-reef deposits accumulated in the photic zone in water depths of a few to several tens of meters, within small spaces generated by large bioclasts and encrusting corals in the topmost centimeters of the sediment. These crusts that formed on the illuminated surface constitute a previously unrecognized style of microbialite formation in Quaternary reefs. As with the cryptic crusts described from other reef locations, its greatest development occurred during the Last Glacial Maximum and early deglaciation. Microbial carbonate formation during this interval may reflect elevated seawater carbonate saturation corresponding with relatively low levels of atmospheric CO2.