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Sedimentary evolution of a Late Pleistocene temperate red algal reef (Coralligène) on Rhodes, Greece: correlation with global sea-level fluctuations



Autochthonous red algal structures known as coralligène de plateau occur in the modern warm-temperate Mediterranean Sea at water depths from 20 to 120 m, but fossil counterparts are not so well-known. This study describes, from an uplifted coastal section at Plimiri on the island of Rhodes, a 450 m long by 10 m thick Late Pleistocene red algal reef (Coralligène Facies), interpreted as being a coralligène de plateau, and its associated deposits. The Coralligène Facies, constructed mainly by Lithophyllum and Titanoderma, sits unconformably upon the Plio-Pleistocene Rhodes Formation and is overlain by a Maerl Facies (2 m), a Mixed Siliciclastic-Carbonate Facies (0·2 m) and an Aeolian Sand Facies (2·5 m). The three calcareous facies, of Heterozoan character, are correlated with established members in the Lindos Acropolis Formation in the north of the island, while the aeolian facies is assigned to the new Plimiri Aeolianite Formation. The palaeoenvironmental and genetic-stratigraphic interpretations of these mixed siliciclastic-carbonate temperate water deposits involved consideration of certain characteristics associated with siliciclastic shelf and tropical carbonate shelf models, such as vertical grain-size trends and the stratigraphic position of zooxanthellate coral growths. Integration of these results with electron spin resonance dates of bivalve shells indicates that the Coralligène Facies was deposited during Marine Isotope Stage 6 to 5e transgressive event (ca 135 to 120 ka), in water depths of 20 to 50 m, and the overlying Maerl Facies was deposited during regression from Marine Isotope Stage 5e to 5d (ca 120 to 110 ka), at water depths of 25 to 40 m. The capping Aeolian Sand Facies, involving dual terrestrial subunits, is interpreted as having formed during each of the glacial intervals Marine Isotope Stages 4 (71 to 59 ka) and 2 (24 to 12 ka), with soil formation during the subsequent interglacial periods of Marine Isotope Stages 3 and 1, respectively. Accumulation rates of about 0·7 mm year−1 are estimated for the Coralligène Facies and minimum accumulation rates of 0·2 mm year−1 are estimated for the Maerl Facies. The existence of older red algal reefs in the Plimiri region during at least Marine Isotope Stages 7 (245 to 186 ka) and 9 (339 to 303 ka) is inferred from the occurrence of reworked coralligène-type lithoclasts in the basal part of the section and from the electron spin resonance ages of transported bivalve shells.