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Yuanfu Yue, Lichao Tang, Kefu Yu, Rongyong Huang. Coral records of Mid-Holocene sea-level highstands and climate responses in the northern South China Sea[J]. Acta Oceanologica Sinica. doi: 10.1007/s13131-023-2264-9
Citation: Yuanfu Yue, Lichao Tang, Kefu Yu, Rongyong Huang. Coral records of Mid-Holocene sea-level highstands and climate responses in the northern South China Sea[J]. Acta Oceanologica Sinica. doi: 10.1007/s13131-023-2264-9

Coral records of Mid-Holocene sea-level highstands and climate responses in the northern South China Sea

doi: 10.1007/s13131-023-2264-9
Funds:  The National Natural Science Foundation of China under contract Nos 42366002 and 41702182; the National Key R&D Program of China under contract No. 2017YFA0603300; the Guangxi Scientific Projects under contract No. 2018GXNSFAA281293.
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  • High-resolution sea-level data and high-precision dating of corals in the northern South China Sea (SCS) during the Holocene provide a reference and historical background for current and future sea-level changes and a basis for scientific assessment of the evolutionary trend of coral reefs in the SCS. Although sporadic studies have been performed around Hainan Island in the northern SCS, the reconstructed sea level presents different values or is controversial because the indicative meaning of the sea-level indicators were neither quantified nor uniform criteria. Here, we determined the quantitative relationship between modern living coral and sea level by measuring the top surfaces of 27 live Porites corals from the inner reef flat along the east coast of Hainan Island and assessed the accuracy of results obtained using coral as sea-level indicators. Additionally, three in situ fossil Porites corals were analyzed based on elevation measurements, digital X-ray radiography, and U-Th dating. The survey results showed that the indicative meanings for the modern live Porites corals is (146.09 ± 8.35) cm below the mean tide level (MTL). It suggested that their upward growth limit is constrained by the sea level, and the lowest low water is the highest level of survival for the modern live Porites corals. Based on the newly defined indicative meanings, 6 new sea-level index points (SLIPs) were obtained and 19 published SLIPs were recalculated. Those SLIPs indicated a relative sea level fluctuation between (227.7 ± 9.8) cm to (154.88 ± 9.8) cm MTL between (5 393 ± 25) cal a BP and (3 390 ± 12) cal a BP, providing evidences of the Mid-Holocene sea-level highstand in the northern SCS. Besides that, our analysis demonstrated that different sea-level histories may be produced based on different indicative meanings or criteria. The dataset of 276 coral U-Th ages indicates that coral reef development in the northern SCS comprised the initial development, boom growth, decline, and flourishing development again. A comparison with regional records indicated that synergistic effects of climatic and environmental factors were involved in the development of coral reefs in the northern SCS. Thus, the cessation of coral reef development during the Holocene in the northern SCS was probably associated with the dry and cold climate in South China, as reflected in the synchronous weakening of the ENSO and East Asian summer monsoon induced by the reduction of the 65°N summer insolation, which forced the migration of the Intertropical Convergence Zone.
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