Intrareef variations in Li/Mg and Sr/Ca sea surface temperature proxies in the Caribbean reef‐building coral Siderastrea siderea

Sara E Fowell, Kate Sandford, Joseph A Stewart, Karl D Castillo, Justin B Ries, Gavin L Foster

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)
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Caribbean sea surface temperatures (SSTs) have increased at a rate of 0.2°C per decade since 1971, a rate double that of the mean global change. Recent investigations of the coral Siderastrea siderea on the Belize Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System (MBRS) have demonstrated that warming over the last 30 years has had a detrimental impact on calcification. Instrumental temperature records in this region are sparse, making it necessary to reconstruct longer SST records indirectly through geochemical temperature proxies. Here we investigate the skeletal Sr/Ca and Li/Mg ratios of S. siderea from two distinct reef zones (forereef and backreef) of the MBRS. Our field calibrations of S. siderea show that Li/Mg and Sr/Ca ratios are well correlated with temperature, although both ratios are 3 times more sensitive to temperature change in the forereef than in the backreef. These differences suggest that a secondary parameter also influences these SST proxies, highlighting the importance for site- and species-specific SST calibrations. Application of these paleothermometers to downcore samples reveals highly uncertain reconstructed temperatures in backreef coral, but well-matched reconstructed temperatures in forereef coral, both between Sr/Ca-SSTs and Li/Mg-SSTs, and in comparison to the Hadley Centre Sea Ice and Sea Surface Temperature record. Reconstructions generated from a combined Sr/Ca and Li/Mg multiproxy calibration improve the precision of these SST reconstructions. This result confirms that there are circumstances in which both Li/Mg and Sr/Ca are reliable as stand-alone and combined proxies of sea surface temperature. However, the results also highlight that high-precision, site-specific calibrations remain critical for reconstructing accurate SSTs from coral-based elemental proxies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1315-1329
Number of pages15
Issue number10
Early online date5 Oct 2016
Publication statusPublished - 11 Nov 2016


  • Li/Mg
  • Sr/Ca
  • SST proxies
  • Siderastrea siderea


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