Coral Reefs

, 26:765 | Cite as

The demise of a major Acropora palmata bank–barrier reef off the southeast coast of Barbados, West Indies

  • I. G. MacintyreEmail author
  • P. W. Glynn
  • M. A. Toscano


Formerly attributed to human activity, the demise of a bank–barrier reef off southeastern Barbados known as Cobbler’s Reef is now thought to be largely the result of late Holocene, millennial-scale storm damage. Eleven surface samples of the reef crest coral Acropora palmata from nine sites along its 15-km length plot above the western Atlantic sea-level curve from 3,000 to 4,500 cal years ago (calibrated, calendar 14C years). These elevated clusters suggest that the reef complex suffered extensive storm damage during this period. The constant heavy wave action typical of this area and consequent low herbivory maintain conditions favoring algal growth, thereby limiting the reestablishment of post-storm reef framework. Site descriptions and detailed line surveys show a surface now composed mainly of reworked fragments of A. palmata covered with algal turf, macroalgae and crustose coralline algae. The reef contains no live A. palmata and only a few scattered coral colonies consisting primarily of Diploria spp. and Porites astreoides, along with the hydrocoral Millepora complanata. A few in situ framework dates plot at expected depths for normal coral growth below the sea-level curve during and after the period of intense storm activity. The most recent of these in situ samples are 320 and 400 cal years old. Corals of this late period likely succumbed to high turbidity associated with land clearance for sugarcane agriculture in the mid-1600s.


Acropora palmata Storm damage Reef demise Algal cover 



We are indebted to the following for advice, assistance, and support: Keith and Barbara Armstrong, Dean, Dereck and Bruce Edgehill, Allan Macintyre, Barbados Coastal Zone Management, and Alison and Michael Pile. The following assisted in identification of bottom communities: D. S. Littler and M. M. Littler, F. W. Bayer, K. Ruetzler, S. D. Cairns, W. H. Adey and S. Lutz. Finally, we also thank W. T. Boykins, M. E. Parrish, B. Riegl, and I. Enochs for graphical and statistical help. Figure 1b is reproduced courtesy of Digital Globe©.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • I. G. Macintyre
    • 1
    Email author
  • P. W. Glynn
    • 2
  • M. A. Toscano
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Paleobiology, MRC 121, National Museum of Natural HistorySmithsonian InstitutionWashington DCUSA
  2. 2.Division of Marine Biology and Fisheries, Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric ScienceUniversity of MiamiMiamiUSA

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