Publication Type:

Book Chapter


Copper, Paul


Phanerozoic reef patterns, Society for Sedimentary Geology (SEPM), Tulsa, OK, United States, Volume 72, p.181-238 (2002)




anaerobic environment, bioerosion, biogenic processes, climate change, communities, Devonian, erosion, extinction, glacial environment, global, greenhouse effect, marine environment, North America, paleoclimatology, paleoecology, paleoenvironment, paleosalinity, paleotemperature, Paleozoic, photochemistry, photosynthesis, plate tectonics, Reefs, sea-level changes, Silurian, symbiosis, VOLCANISM, Western Canada Sedimentary Basin


The Silurian-Devonian (mid-Paleozoic), a time of periodic, exceptional sealevel highstands, vast epicontinental sea lanes, and global greenhouse climates well above Holocene norms, also identifies the maximal extent of Phanerozoic metazoan reef development and the acme of coral and sponge reef biodiversity. Two peaks are identified for reef distribution, a mid-Silurian (Wenlock) maximum and a Mid-to Late Devonian (Eifel-Givet-middle Frasne) maximum, with reefs spread to latitudes as high as 45 to 60 degrees, and major barrier-platform tropical reef belts stretched over more than 2000 km. Reef abundance broadly matched patterns of rise and fall in generic biodiversity for the major metazoan reef builders (corals and stromatoporoids) and algae during this 80 million year episode. The mid-Paleozoic reef community originated in the Late Ordovician, taking over from the Cambro-Ordovician mudmound-dominated reef spectrum. It was only modestly affected by the glaciation-induced end-Ordovician (Hirnantian) mass extinction events. Late Devonian reef extinction losses were initiated at the Givetian-Frasnian boundary by major declines in coral, stromatoporoid, and brachiopod benthic components. Reefs then experienced a second global expansion in the middle Frasnian, but with reduced faunal diversity. Catastrophic reef declines began in the late Frasnian rhenana conodont Zone and continued through the final linguiformis Zone, with events probably lasting ca. 1 Myr. The coral-stromatoporoid reef community was eliminated worldwide, with surviving patch reefs and reefal mud mounds in the Famennian constructed by consortia of calcimicrobes, lithistid sponges, green and red algae, and foraminiferans. The surviving Famennian corals were primarily solitary, deep-water forms that played no major reef role. The last stromatoporoids died out within the Strunian praesulcata Zone, at the Devonian-Carboniferous boundary. Widespread organic-rich carbonates of Givetian through Famennian age, normally taken as indicative of anoxia, do not show any correlation with local or global reef declines. The Frasnian-Famennian extinction events for reefs and reef faunas appear to have been second only to the end-Permian reef losses in terms of severity. Metazoan reef extinction in the Late Devonian best parallels evidence for Famennian glaciations, loss of reef accommodation space as sealevels fell, and increasing oxygenation of the atmosphere via the evolution of the first pteridophyte rainforests, forcing the terminal Famennian icehouse phases.


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