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Free Content A dead Central American coral reef tract: Possible link with the Little Ice Age

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Radiocarbon analyses, stable isotopic measurements and extensive field observations were made of coral reefs off the Pacific coast of Costa Rica and Panama. These analyses showed that live coral reefs in the Gulf of Papagayo, Costa Rica, were severely depleted in number, size and variety of species, compared to reefs in the major upwelling zone of the Gulf of Panama. Coral growth in the Gulf of Papagayo consisted mainly of dead reefs that died from 150–300 years B.P. The 18O records revealed that most of the dead reefs were exposed to relatively cool water immediately preceding death. We propose that during the latter part of the Little Ice Age there was probably an equatorward shift of the Northern Trade Wind system, which caused an intensification of upwelling at lower latitudes. This increased upwelling was the likely cause of the demise of coral reefs in the Gulf of Papagayo.

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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: August 1, 1983

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  • The Journal of Marine Research publishes peer-reviewed research articles covering a broad array of topics in physical, biological and chemical oceanography. Articles that deal with processes, as well as those that report significant observations, are welcome. In the area of biology, studies involving coupling between ecological and physical processes are preferred over those that report systematics. Authors benefit from thorough reviews of their manuscripts, where an attempt is made to maximize clarity. The time between submission and publication is kept to a minimum; there is no page charge.
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