Evidence for coral island formation during rising sea level in the central Pacific Ocean

  • Kench P
  • Owen S
  • Ford M
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Abstract

The timing and evolution of Jabat Island, Marshall Islands, was investigated using morphostratigraphic analysis and radiometric dating. Results show the first evidence of island building in the Pacific during latter stages of Holocene sea level rise. A three-phase model of development of Jabat is presented. Initially, rapid accumulation of coarse sediments on Jabat occurred 4800–4000 years B.P. across a reef flat higher than present level, as sea level continued to rise. During the highstand, island margins and particularly the western margin accreted vertically to 2.5–3.0 m above contemporary ridge elevations. This accumulation phase was dominated by sand-size sediments. Phase three involved deposition of gravel ridges on the northern reef, as sea level fell to present position. Jabat has remained geomorphically stable for the past 2000 years. Findings suggest reef platforms may accommodate the oldest reef islands in atoll systems, which may have profound implications for questions of prehistoric migration through Pacific archipelagos.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Marshall Islands
  • Pacific Ocean
  • atoll islands
  • reef island evolution
  • sea level change

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