The Holocene Cañada Honda fossil reef, located in southwestern Dominican Republic, provides a unique opportunity to examine a well-preserved fossil coral reef that thrived in a high-sedimentation environment between 9,000 to 5,000 years ago. Measurements of coral growth rates from the corals Montastraea faveolata and Siderastrea siderea were conducted and comparisons made with growth rate data of these same species from modern coral reefs throughout the Caribbean. Also, assessments of coral species abundance, morphology, age, and distribution, as well as reef sediment composition, were made to determine the paleoenvironment of reef accretion. This reef is characterized by a high relative abundance of sediment-tolerant coral species that have a tendency to form almost monospecific stands. Individual colonies have a propensity to grow as encrusting, dome-shaped, platy-like forms and specimens of Montastraea faveolata commonly contain bands of sediment incorporated into the skeleton. Calibrated radiocarbon ages of fossil corals range from 9,256±137 to 6,737±94.5 BP. Correlation of radiocarbon ages with well-established Holocene sea-level curves indicates that most corals on this reef developed at depths >15m. Measured growth rates in Siderastrea siderea (0.2–0.4 cm/yr) and Montastraea faveolata (0.09–0.44 cm/yr) are relatively low compared with growth rates from modern reef sites, indicating reduced light intensity caused by coral growth at depths greater than 15 m. Reef sediment is characterized by more than 85% carbonate material. A significant portion of the carbonate is allochtonous and was derived from nearby Neogene limestones. The reef was able to survive under high-sedimentation conditions because the high carbonate content of incoming terrigenous sediment would have allowed better light penetration and probable sporadic storms would provide intervening low-sedimentation periods during which reef corals could respond and grow back, keeping-up with sedimentation.
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Vol. 45 • No. 1