Coral Reefs

, Volume 26, Issue 3, pp 617–633 | Cite as

Geomorphology of the Southeast Florida continental reef tract (Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach Counties, USA)

  • K. W. Banks
  • B. M. Riegl
  • E. A. Shinn
  • W. E. Piller
  • R. E. Dodge


This paper describes the geomorphology of the northern, relict, portion of the Florida reef tract that extends along the southeast Florida (USA) continental coast northward to latitude N26° 43.1′. The descriptions are based on high-resolution Laser Airborne Depth Sounding bathymetric data along Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach Counties as well as chirp subbottom-profiles and reef cores. The SE Florida continental reef tract consists of relict Holocene reefs and lithified sand ridges that apparently formed during backstepping of the reefs in response to sea-level rise. The outer reef is a linear structure that is more or less continuous from Miami-Dade to Palm Beach County and as such is one of the longest continuous reef structures in the western Atlantic. Its relation with the modern Florida Keys reef tract cannot be clearly resolved without further study. The outer reef may be equivalent to the shelf-edge reefs of the Florida Keys. It is broken by reef gaps that likely represent paleo-river channels cross-cutting the underlying Pleistocene substrate. The upward growth of the outer reef ceased approximately 8,000 cal BP (calibrated 14C age before present). A middle reef may represent a remnant shoreface with continuous reef framework. Its growth ceased approximately 3,700 cal BP. An inner reef of Acropora palmata framework is perched on shoreline deposits. It ceased growth approximately 6,000 cal BP. Several nearshore ridges consist of coquina and carbonate/quartz sandstone.


SE Florida continental reef tract Geomorphology High-resolution bathymetry Backstepping Relict reef 



We thank Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach Counties for making the LADS datasets available. B.K. Walker assembled the GIS. H. Guarin of Bert Instruments, Inc., collected and processed subbottom profiling information with his GeocatII. K. Kohler wrote LADS extractor. R. Fairbanks kindly provided us with a TIMS age. We thank three reviewers for useful criticism and B.H. Lidz for a careful review, thorough editing, and many helpful remarks. Support by NOAA-CSCOR grants NA16OA1443 and NA03NOS4260046 to NCRI. This is NCRI contribution # 85.


  1. Banks K, Dodge RE, Fisher L, Stout D, Jaap W (1998) Florida coral reef damage from a nuclear submarine grounding and proposed restoration. In: Proceedings 1st international coastal science symposium, Palm Beach, pp 64–71Google Scholar
  2. Blanchon P, Perry CT (2004) Taphonomic differentiation of Acropora palmata facies in cores from Campeche Bank Reefs, Gulf of Mexico. Sedimentology 51:53–76CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Blanchon P, Shaw J (1995) Reef drowning during the last deglaciation: evidence for catastrophic sea-level rise and ice-sheet collapse. Geology 23:4–8CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Blanchon P, Jones B, Ford DC (2002) Discovery of a submerged relic reef and shoreline off Grand Cayman: further support for an early Holocene jump in sea level. Sediment Geol 147:253–270CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Braithwaite CJR (1979) Holocene reef growth on the edge of the Florida shelf. Nature 278:281–282CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Brock JC, Wright CW, Clayton TD, Nayegandhi A (2004) LIDAR optical rugosity of coral reefs in Biscayne National Park, Florida. Coral Reefs 23:48–60CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Buddemeier RW, Smith SV (1988) Coral reef growth in an era of rapidly rising sea level: predictions and suggestions for long-term research. Coral Reefs 7:51–56CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Cooke CW (1945) Geology of Florida. Fla Geol Surv Bull 29, TallahasseeGoogle Scholar
  9. Davis JC (2002) Statistics and data analysis in geology. John Wiley and Sons, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  10. Duane DB, Meisburger EP (1969a) Geomorphology and sediments of the inner continental shelf, Palm Beach to Cape Kennedy, Florida. US Army Coast Eng Res Cent Tech Memorand Wash C no. 34Google Scholar
  11. Duane DB, Meisburger EP (1969b) Geomorphology and sediments of the inner continental shelf, Miami to Palm Beach. US Army Coast Eng Res Cent Tech Memorand Wash C no. 29Google Scholar
  12. Dubar JR, Johnson F (1964) Pleistocene coquina in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. SE Geol 5:79Google Scholar
  13. Enos P (1977) Holocene sediment accumulations of the South Florida shelf margin, pt. I. In: Enos P, Perkins RD (eds) Quaternary Sedimentation in South Florida. Geol Soc Am Mem 147, pp 1–130Google Scholar
  14. Finkl CW, Benedet L, Andrews FL (2005) Interpretation of seabed geomorphology based on spatial analysis of high-density airborne laser bathymetry. J Coast Res 21:501–514CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Ginsburg RN, Shinn EA (1993) Preferential distribution of reefs in the Florida reef tract: the past is the key to the present. In: Ginsburg RN (compiler) Global Aspects of Coral Reefs: Health, Hazards and History. University of Miami, Miami, pp 21–26Google Scholar
  16. Goldberg WM (1973) The ecology of the coral–octocoral communities off the southeast Florida coast: Geomorphology, species composition, and zonation. Bull Mar Sci 23:465–488Google Scholar
  17. Hubbard DK, Zankl H, van Heerden I, Gill IP (2005) Holocene reef development along the northeastern St. Croix shelf, Buck Island, U.S. Virgen Islands. J Sedim Res 75:97–113CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Insalaco E (1998) The descriptive nomenclature and classification of growth fabrics in fossil scleractinian reefs. Sediment Geol 118:159–186CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Jaap WC (1984) The ecology of the South Florida coral reefs: A community profile. US Fish and Wildlife Service, Office of Biological Services 82/08Google Scholar
  20. Jarrett BD, Hine AC, Halley RB, Naar DF, Locker SD Neumann AC, Twichell D, Hu C, Donahue BT, Jaap WC, Palandro D, Ciembronowicz K (2005) Strange bedfellows-a deep-water hermatypic coral reef superimposed on a drowned barrier island: Southern Pulley Ridge, SW Florida platform margin. Mar Geol 214:295–307CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Lidz BH (2004) Coral reef complexes at an atypical windward platform margin: Late Quaternary, southeast Florida. Geol Soc Am Bull 116:974–988CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Lidz BH, Hallock P (2000) Sedimentary petrology of a declining reef ecosystem, Florida Reef Tract (USA). J Coast Res 16:675–697Google Scholar
  23. Lidz BH, Hine AC, Shinn EA, Kindinger JL (1991) Multiple outer-reef tracts along the south Florida bank margin: outlier reefs, a new windward margin model. Geology 19:115–118CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Lidz BH, Shinn EA, Hine AC, Locker SD (1997) Contrasts within an outlier-reef system: evidence for differential quaternary evolution, South Florida windward margin, U.S.A. J Coast Res 13:711–731Google Scholar
  25. Lidz BH, Reich CD, Shinn EA (2003) Regional Quaternary submarine geomorphology in the Florida Keys. Geol Soc Am Bull 115:845–866CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Lidz BH, Reich CD, Peterson RL, Shinn EA (2006) New maps, new information: coral reefs of the Florida Keys. J Coastal Res 22:260–282CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Lighty RG (1977) Relict shelf-edge Holocene coral reef: Southeast coast of Florida. In: Proc 3rd Int Coral Reef Symp, 2, pp 215–221Google Scholar
  28. Lighty RG, Macintyre IG, Stuckenrath R (1978) Submerged early Holocene barrier reef south-east Florida shelf. Nature 275:59–60CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Lighty RG, Macintyre IG, Stuckenrath R (1982) Acropora palmata reef framework: a reliable indicator of sea-level in the western Atlantic for the past 10,000 years. Coral Reefs 1:125–130CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Macintyre IG (1988) Modern coral reefs of western Atlantic: new geologic perspectives. AAPG Bull 72:1360–1369Google Scholar
  31. Macintyre IG, Milliman JD (1970) Physiographic features on the outer shelf and upper slope, Atlantic continental margin, southeastern United States. Geol Soc Am Bull 81:2577–2598CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Middleton GV (2000) Data analysis in the earth sciences using Matlab. Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, NJGoogle Scholar
  33. Moyer RP, Riegl B, Banks K, Dodge RE (2003) Spatial patterns and ecology of benthic communities on a high-latitude South Florida (Broward County, USA) reef system. Coral Reefs 22:447–464CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Osmond JK, May JP, Tanner WF (1970) Age of the Cape Kennedy barrier-and-lagoon complex. J Geophys Res 75:469–491CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Perkins RD (1977) Depositional framework of Pleistocene rocks in south Florida. In: Enos P, Perkins RD (eds) Quaternary Sedimentation in South Florida. Geol Soc Am Mem 147:131–198Google Scholar
  36. Perry CT (1998) Macroborers within coral framework at Discovery Bay, north Jamaica: Species distribution and abundance, and effects on coral preservation. Coral Reefs 17:277–287CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Perry CT (2000) Macroboring of Pleistocene coral communities, Falmouth Formation, Jamaica. Palaios 15:483–491CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Raymond WF (1972) A geologic investigation of the offshore sands and reefs of Broward County, Florida. MS thesis, Florida State University, p95Google Scholar
  39. Shinn EA (1963) Spur and groove formation on the Florida reef tract. J Sediment Petrol 33:291–303Google Scholar
  40. Shinn EA, Hudson JH, Halley RB, Lidz BH (1977) Topographic control and accumulation rate of some Holocene coral reefs, south Florida and Dry Tortugas. In: Proc 3rd Int Coral Reef Symp, 2, pp 1–7Google Scholar
  41. Shinn EA, Hudson JH, Robbin DM, Lidz B (1981) Spurs and grooves revisited – construction versus erosion, Looey Key Reef, Florida. In: Proc 4th Int Coral Reef Symp, 1, pp 475–483Google Scholar
  42. Shinn EA, Lidz BH, Kindinger JL, Hudson JH, Halley RB (1989) Reefs of Florida and the Dry Tortugas: a guide to the modern carbonate environments of the Florida Keys and Dry Tortugas. International Geological Congress Field Trip Guidebook T176, AGU, Washington DCGoogle Scholar
  43. Shinn EA, Lidz BH, Hine AC (1991) Coastal evolution and sea-level history: Florida Keys. In: Proceedings: coastal depositional systems in the Gulf of Mexico, Quaternary Framework and Environmental Issues. Twelfth Annual Research Conference Gulf Coast Section Society of Economic Paleontologists and Mineralogists Foundation, Adams’s Mark Hotel, Houston, Texas, pp 237–239Google Scholar
  44. Stuiver M, Reimer PJ (1993) Extended 14C database and revised CALIB radiocarbon age calibration 24,000–0 cal BP. Radiocarbon 35:215–230Google Scholar
  45. Toscano MA, Lundberg J (1998) Early Holocene sea-level record from submerged fossil reefs on the southeast Florida margin. Geology 26:255–258CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Toscano MA, Macintyre IG (2003) Corrected western Atlantic sea-level curve for the last 11,000 years based on calibrated 14C dates from Acropora palmata framework and intertidal mangrove peat. Coral Reefs 22:257–270CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. USACE (1996) Coast of Florida Erosion and Storm Effects Study-Region III, Appendix D-Engineering Design and Cost Estimates (draft). US Army Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville, Florida, DistrictGoogle Scholar
  48. Vaughan TW (1914) Investigations of the geology and geologic processes of the reef tracts and adjacent areas in the Bahamas and Florida. Carnegie Inst Wash Year B 12:183Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • K. W. Banks
    • 1
    • 4
  • B. M. Riegl
    • 2
  • E. A. Shinn
    • 3
  • W. E. Piller
    • 4
  • R. E. Dodge
    • 2
  1. 1.Broward County Environmental Protection Department1 University DrivePlantationUSA
  2. 2.National Coral Reef InstituteNova Southeastern University Oceanographic CenterDaniaUSA
  3. 3.Marine Science CenterUniversity of South FloridaSt. PetersburgUSA
  4. 4.Institut fuer Erdwissenschaften Karl-Franzens-Universitaet GrazGrazAustria

Personalised recommendations