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Frozen in time: ecology of paleo reefs

Fossil coral reefs, that were living in past warm periods, can provide several insights on former climates. In turn, these can be used to gauge the sensitivity of different components of the Earth’s system to future climate changes. In this project, we propose to investigate a set of very well-preserved Pleistocene reefs in the Southern Caribbean, on the islands of Aruba, Curacao and Bonaire. We aim to build both underwater and on-land virtual outcrops and use them to compare the taxonomic community structure and the distribution of coral traits between modern and fossil reefs. We want to know if the reefs we will investigate are different from their modern counterparts, and why. To answer this question, we will have to push the boundaries of current survey methods, investigate the possibility of measuring coral traits from fossil corals and find novel ways to enable modern/paleo reef quantitative comparisons. This endeavour will result in substantial advances in how paleoecological field studies are approached and will give us new insights on paleoenvironmental changes in the Southern Caribbean region.

Schematic of the Frozen in Time project developed by Patrick Boyden.