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As part of the U.S. Geological Survey's multi-disciplinary Coral Reef Project addressing the health and geological variability of coral reef systems, sediment components and their distribution along the fringing reef on the south shore of the Hawaiian island of Molokai are being examined. Particular interest is being paid to the types and origin of sediment found on the reef. The south shore of Molokai is sheltered by one of the largest fringing reefs in the US. At approximately 50 km in length, up to 1.5 km in width, and covered by 90% live coral in many locations, the reef seemingly should be able to provide ample sediment for large carbonate beaches. However, siliciclastic grains supplied by erosion of the basaltic uplands of Molokai are often the most conspicuous individual nearshore sediment type. Coralline algae and coral are the most common carbonate components of the beaches. On the nearshore reef-flat, chemically-altered carbonate grains, particularly coralline algae, are the most abundant component. Molluscs and Halimeda may be common in specific locations, but are usually minor components. Sediment calcium carbonate levels increase to the west from a minimum at Kamalo, and are high along the east shore of Molokai. However, these general island-scale trends may be overridden by local influences, such as protected stream mouths or high carbonate growth rates. Additionally, trends seen on the beach and nearshore environments may not reflect trends a few hundred meters offshore since shore normal trends are more pronounced than shore parallel ones.
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Beach and reef-flat sediments along the south shore of Molokai, Hawaii