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ABSTRACT

The leeward fringing reef at Fantome Island (central Great Barrier Reef province) is a carbonate body which has developed under the influence of terrigenous sedimentation. The reef flat is up to 1000 m wide and is surfaced by mobile sand and gravel, with almost all live corals restricted to the seaward rim. The reef slope has coral columns and heads on the upper part, but below 5 m water depth it is a muddy substrate with scattered mounds of branching corals.

Three high recovery cores show the reef is up to 10 m thick and developed over a gently sloping terrace of weathered Pleistocene alluvium. Three post-glacial stratigraphic units are recognised: (1) carbonate reef top unit of coral rudstone and framestone including Sinularia spiculite; (2) lower slope unit of coral floatstone in a terrigenous muddy matrix; and (3) transgressive basal unit of skeletal arkosic sand. The acid insoluble content of matrix and of individual corals increases downwards. Coral growth rates decrease downwards, reflecting slower growth in muddier environments.

Radiocarbon dating shows that the reef prograded seaward at almost stable sea level. An average vertical accumulation rate of 6.7 mm yr-1 is indicated. Two age reversals are interpreted as material transported by storms or by erosion in response to a late Holocene sea-level fall.

The carbonate reef top unit has developed adjacent to, and is environmentally compatible with a muddy terrigenous, lower slope unit. Terrigenous influx has not changed during the Holocene, and terrigenous content of sediments is controlled by deposition on the reef slope of fine sediment winnowed from the reef flat and concentration of coarse sediment in the transgressive basal sheet.