Hot off the press! Reconstructing paleowater quality in southern Great Barrier Reef over the past 8000 years using novel microbialite geochemistry records

Please join me in congratulating Dr Marcos Salas-Saavedra and the team on the publication of our new paper in the journal Chemical Geology.

Salas-Saavedra, M., Webb, G.E., Sanborn, K.L., Zhao, J.-x., Webster, J.M., Nothdurft, L.D. and Nguyen, A., 2022. Holocene microbialite geochemistry records > 6000 years of secularinfluence of terrigenous flux on water quality for the southern Great Barrier Reef. Chemical Geology, 604.


  • Geochemical proxies from microbialites inform trends in Holocene water quality.
  • First independent Holocene water quality reconstruction for the Great Barrier Reef.
  • Record of subtle changes in past water quality around reefs well offshore.
  • New ability to compare Holocene water quality trends with reef ecology and growth.
Fig. 14. Paleoenvironmental proxies and relative sea level data compared to water quality intervals based on microbialite geochemistry through the Holocene.

This paper represents a fundamental advance in our use of fossil reef cores, and associated microbialite sediments in particular, to reconstruct paleoenvironmental changes such as water quality. This work lays a firm foundation for the next incredibly exciting stage of our collaborative (USYD, UQ, QUT and international partners) research to directly compare changes in Holocene (and beyond) water quality with corresponding changes in reef responses (ecology, growth, sedimentation, bioerosion etc) in the Great Barrier Reef. The goal being to establish the key environmental thresholds that have caused major changes to how the reef has evolved in the past (and perhaps those in the future!).

Bravo to Marcos and the team! You can also read more about the paper and its implications at the media release here.


Jody #MarineScienceSydneyUni

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