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Keywords:

  • larger foraminifera;
  • multivariate analysis;
  • paleoenvironmental analysis;
  • Quaternary;
  • Ryukyu Group

Abstract  A new method for reconstructing depositional environments of larger foraminifera-bearing limestones is proposed. First, depth and spatial distributions of empty tests of 10 foraminiferal taxa in a 1–2 mm size fraction were examined using 32 surface sediment samples collected from depths shallower than 200 m, located to the west of Miyako Island, Ryukyu Islands, northwest Pacific. Distributional ranges of empty tests in the 1–2 mm size fraction appear to be more limited than those including other size fractions in previous reports, partly because larger empty tests of each taxon are less easily transported than smaller ones. Multivariate analyses (Q-mode cluster analysis and non-metric multidimensional scaling ordination) based on binary (presence/absence) data of the 10 taxa delineate four sample groups, each of which corresponds to different depositional environments: nearshore zone/bay inlet; back-reef to fore-reef; outer shelf to shelf slope; and shelf slope distant from coral reefs. Next, these modern data were applied to reconstruct the depositional environment of a rock section distributed in the Shiratorizaki area (Irabu Island, Ryukyu Islands), which consists of larger foraminiferal limestone of the Pleistocene Ryukyu Group. Multivariate analyses were performed on the fossil plus the modern foraminiferal data to explore the possible relationship of the fossil associations with variations in modern associations, demonstrating that the fossil foraminiferal associations resemble the modern outer shelf associations. The modern analog technique was also applied to estimate paleobathymetry using fossil foraminiferal data. The results indicate that the section studied was deposited in outer shelf environments at depths between 53.5 and 98.6 m. These paleoenvironmental interpretations are consistent with previous studies based on sedimentary facies and the computer-based expert system. The modern dataset and methods used in our work would be particularly useful for paleoenvironmental reconstructions of Quaternary reef and shelf carbonates along active margins of the northwest Pacific.