How 'accidentally discovered' corals in Sentosa can help scientists predict sea level rise in Singapore

While the fossil coral microatolls at Sentosa are between 1,000 to 3,000 years old, the ones at Lazarus Island and Pulau Tekukor are much older, at around 7,000 years old, said Ms Tan.

“I think what’s unique about the Sentosa corals is that we have younger fossil corals compared to other sites that we have found in Singapore. So we’re able to fill in a part of the historical time period where there isn’t a lot of data available at the moment,” said Ms Tan.

So far, data from the fossil corals have shown that sea level has been falling slightly from the past 3,000 years or so. However, a look at the living corals – which are about a few decades old – indicates modern sea level rise, she noted.

How are the corals being studied?

To study the microatolls found on these islands, one would need to determine their age and elevation.

Small core samples of the microatolls will also be collected for radiocarbon dating – a method used to determine the corals’ estimated age, said Ms Tan.

The fossil coral microatolls were found at higher elevation, compared to the living microatolls. This means that sea level was slightly higher in the past, when then fell over time, said Ms Tan.

Taking the difference in elevations between the fossil and living corals will show the difference in sea level over time, she added.


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