, Volume 14, Issue 1, pp 27-33

Leeward bank margin Halimeda meadows and draperies and their sedimentary importance on the western Great Bahama Bank slope

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Abstract

Bryopsidalean algal meadows in water depths of 20–40 m on the leeward side of western Great Bahama Bank (WGBB) lie between non-skeletal-dominated sand flats on the bank top to the east and a cemented steep escarpment to the west. The meadows contain dense populations of rhipsalian Halimeda species, as well as Udotea and Rhipocephalus. Extensive populations of other Halimeda species (opuntioids) occur at greater depths on the cemented rocky escarpment, growing as drapes or vines rather than as upright thalli. These meadows and draperies are important sources of coarse-grained carbonate sediments. This is shown by (1) deeper bank-edge sediments (30–60 m) containing considerably more Halimeda fragments than do the bank top, non-skeletal sands, and (2) the coarser fraction of slope sediments (down to 200 m) dominated by Halimeda plates, partly or extensively altered and internally cemented by magnesian calcite and aragonite. A transect across the bank margin from bank top (<10 m) to lower slope (300 m) provides a useful comparison for the locus of sediment production and accumulation. The production of Halimeda in these bank-edge habitats approximates that in the Great Barrier Reef or off Indonesia and Nicaragua in similar water depths. The apparent lack of thick sediment accumulation in WGBB compared to that seen elsewhere may reflect the high rates of downslope transport off Great Bahama Bank.