Patterns of sediment transport using foraminifera tracers across sand aprons on the Great Barrier Reef

Thomas E. Fellowes*, Jordan Gacutan, Daniel L. Harris, Ana Vila-Concejo, Jody M. Webster, Maria Byrne

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

5 Citations (Scopus)


Sediment dynamics exert large control over coral reef geomorphological evolution and are vital to understanding past and present geomorphic responses. Large benthic foraminifera (LBF) live in the algal reef flats, and their tests (shells) are transported post-mortem by waves and currents onto back-reef environments, including sand aprons. This study investigated the patterns of transport linking surficial and downcore sediments in samples from three sand aprons with different wave exposures at One Tree Reef on the southern Great Barrier Reef (Australia). Six LBF genera represented up to 32% of the sediments analysed. Lagoonward transport increased LBF test abrasion and sediment bulk density. Sediment grain size and LBF abundance in sediments also decreased with lagoonward transport. Sediment transport patterns indicated by LBF species used as tracer were consistent with the prominent E-SE wave environment. A novel taphofacies approach was used to describe stratigraphic layers in downcore sediments based on LBF test abrasion and abundance. Varied sediment deposition rates did not affect the LBF test abrasion signature downcore. It appears that Baculogypsina sphaerulata has been the dominant species for at least 3 ka. Tests that were deposited slowly exhibited less or the same levels of abrasion than those that were rapidly deposited. It appears that test abrasion is primarily determined by the distance travelled rather than the influence of increased age or chemical dissolution.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)864-873
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Coastal Research
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • geomorphology
  • lagoon
  • large benthic foraminifera
  • sand deposit
  • sediment size
  • source to sink
  • spatial modelling
  • submerged back-reef
  • tracer species

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