Caribbean Sinkholes

Caribbean Sinkholes

I’m McKensie Daugherty, your host for on the ocean. Last week, we learned that precipitation and sea-level change can form sinkholes and blue holes on carbonate landscapes. These holes can record evidence of changes in plants and animals, as well as variations in precipitation patterns within an environment. Over time small pieces of rock and plants are deposited at the bottom of the sinkhole as sediment. Researchers at Texas A&M collect bottom sediments and use various laboratory techniques to analyze the sediments and gather evidence of what the environment and climate may have been like 12,000 years ago. The Caribbean basin remains a good place to reconstruct past environments because there are many sinkholes and blue holes on the islands where sediment cores can be taken. Completed work on sediments from the Northern Bahamas indicate regional precipitation patterns changed in the region during the last 8,000 years. These changes during the last 3,000 years support evidence that precipitation changes are associated with larger-scale global atmospheric shifts. Additionally, shifts in regional plant and animal species have also changed through time. Sediments recorded in these sinkholes and blue holes can provide insight into how changes in climate impact local ecosystems and precipitation patterns.  Understanding past environmental changes throughout the Caribbean can be crucial to understanding how climate change will affect our ecosystems in the future. This has been On the Ocean, a program made possible by the Department of Oceanography and a production of KAMU-FM on the campus of Texas A&M University in College Station. For more information and links, please go to ocean.tamu.edu and click “On the Ocean”.

Script Author: Anne Tamalavage