Decoupled carbonate chemistry controls on the incorporation of boron into Orbulina universa (update)

In order to fully constrain paleo-carbonate systems, proxies for two out of seven parameters, plus temperature and salinity, are required. The boron isotopic composition (δ11B) of planktonic foraminifera shells is a powerful tool for reconstructing changes in past surface ocean pH. As B(OH)4− is substituted into the biogenic calcite lattice in place of CO32−, and both borate and carbonate ions are more abundant at higher pH, it was suggested early on that B ∕ Ca ratios in biogenic calcite may serve as a proxy for [CO32−]. Although several recent studies have shown that a direct connection of B ∕ Ca to carbonate system parameters may be masked by other environmental factors in the field, there is ample evidence for a mechanistic relationship between B ∕ Ca and carbonate system parameters. Here, we focus on investigating the primary relationship to develop a mechanistic understanding of boron uptake.

Differentiating between the effects of pH and [CO32−] is problematic, as they co-vary closely in natural systems, so the major control on boron incorporation remains unclear. To deconvolve the effects of pH and [CO32−] and to investigate their impact on the B ∕ Ca ratio and δ11B, we conducted culture experiments with the planktonic foraminifer Orbulina universa in manipulated culture media: constant pH (8.05), but changing [CO32−] (238, 286 and 534 µmol kg−1 CO32−) and at constant [CO32−] (276 ± 19.5 µmol kg−1) and varying pH (7.7, 7.9 and 8.05). Measurements of the isotopic composition of boron and the B ∕ Ca ratio were performed simultaneously using a femtosecond laser ablation system coupled to a MC-ICP-MS (multiple-collector inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometer). Our results show that, as expected, δ11B is controlled by pH but it is also modulated by [CO32−]. On the other hand, the B ∕ Ca ratio is driven by [HCO3−], independently of pH. This suggests that B ∕ Ca ratios in foraminiferal calcite can possibly be used as a second, independent, proxy for complete paleo-carbonate system reconstructions. This is discussed in light of recent literature demonstrating that the primary relationship between B ∕ Ca and [HCO3−] can be obscured by other environmental parameters.

Howes E. L., Kaczmarek K., Raitzsch M., Mewes A., Bijma N., Horn I., Misra S., Gattuso J.-P . & Bijma J., 2017. Decoupled carbonate chemistry controls on the incorporation of boron into Orbulina universa. Biogeosciences 14:415-430. Article.

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