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The relative utility of foraminifera and diatoms for reconstructing late Holocene sea-level change in North Carolina, USA

  • Andrew C. Kemp (a1), Benjamin P. Horton (a1), D. Reide Corbett (a2) (a3), Stephen J. Culver (a2), Robin J. Edwards (a4) and Orson van de Plassche (a5)...


Foraminifera and diatoms preserved in salt-marsh sediments have been used to produce high-resolution records of Holocene relative sea-level (RSL) change. To determine which of these microfossil groups is most appropriate for this purpose we investigated their relative utility from salt marshes in North Carolina, USA. Regional-scale transfer functions were developed using foraminifera, diatoms and a combination of both (multi-proxy) from three salt marshes (Oregon Inlet, Currituck Barrier Island and Pea Island). We evaluated each approach on the basis of transfer-function performance. Foraminifera, diatoms and multi-proxy-based transfer functions all demonstrated a strong relationship between observed and predicted elevations (r 2 jack > 0.74 and RMSEP < 0.05 m), suggesting that they have equal utility. Application of the transfer functions to a fossil core from Salvo to reconstruct former sea levels enabled us to consider relative utility in light of ‘paleo-performance’. Fossil foraminifera had strong modern analogues, whilst diatoms had poor modern analogues making them unreliable. This result reflects the high diversity and site-specific distribution of modern diatoms. Consequently, we used foraminifera to reconstruct RSL change for the period since ∼ AD 1800 using a 210Pb- and 14C-based chronology, and we were able to reconcile this with tide-gauge records.


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