Posts Tagged 'paleo'

The seawater carbon inventory at the Paleocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum

The Paleocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM) (55.6 Mya) was a geologically rapid carbon-release event that is considered the closest natural analog to anthropogenic CO2 emissions. Recent work has used boron-based proxies in planktic foraminifera to characterize the extent of surface-ocean acidification that occurred during the event. However, seawater acidity alone provides an incomplete constraint on the nature and source of carbon release. Here, we apply previously undescribed culture calibrations for the B/Ca proxy in planktic foraminifera and use them to calculate relative changes in seawater-dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) concentration, surmising that Pacific surface-ocean DIC increased by + 1,010+1,415−646+1,010−646+1,415 µmol/kg during the peak-PETM. Making reasonable assumptions for the pre-PETM oceanic DIC inventory, we provide a fully data-driven estimate of the PETM carbon source. Our reconstruction yields a mean source carbon δ13C of −10‰ and a mean increase in the oceanic C inventory of +14,900 petagrams of carbon (PgC), pointing to volcanic CO2 emissions as the main carbon source responsible for PETM warming.

Continue reading ‘The seawater carbon inventory at the Paleocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum’

Rapid shifts in circulation and biogeochemistry of the Southern Ocean during deglacial carbon cycle events

The Southern Ocean plays a crucial role in regulating atmospheric CO2 on centennial to millennial time scales. However, observations of sufficient resolution to explore this have been lacking. Here, we report high-resolution, multiproxy records based on precisely dated deep-sea corals from the Southern Ocean. Paired deep (∆14C and δ11B) and surface (δ15N) proxy data point to enhanced upwelling coupled with reduced efficiency of the biological pump at 14.6 and 11.7 thousand years (ka) ago, which would have facilitated rapid carbon release to the atmosphere. Transient periods of unusually well-ventilated waters in the deep Southern Ocean occurred at 16.3 and 12.8 ka ago. Contemporaneous atmospheric carbon records indicate that these Southern Ocean ventilation events are also important in releasing respired carbon from the deep ocean to the atmosphere. Our results thus highlight two distinct modes of Southern Ocean circulation and biogeochemistry associated with centennial-scale atmospheric CO2 jumps during the last deglaciation.

Continue reading ‘Rapid shifts in circulation and biogeochemistry of the Southern Ocean during deglacial carbon cycle events’

Evolution of deep-sea sediments across the Paleocene-Eocene and Eocene-Oligocene boundaries

The composition and distribution of deep-sea sediments is the result of a multitude of climatic, biotic and oceanic conditions relating to biogeochemical cycles and environmental change. Here we utilize the extensive sediment archives of the International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP) and its predecessors to construct maps of deep-sea sediment type across two critical but contrasting boundaries in the Paleogene, one characterised by an interval of extreme warmth (Paleocene/Eocene) and the other by global cooling (Eocene/Oligocene). Ocean sediment distribution shows significant divergence both between the latest Paleocene and Paleocene Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM), across the Eocene-Oligocene Transition (EOT), and in comparison to modern sediment distributions. Carbonate sedimentation in the latest Paleocene extends to high southern latitudes. Disappearance of carbonate sediments at the PETM is well documented and can be attributed to dissolution caused by significant ocean acidification as a result of carbon-cycle perturbation. Biosiliceous sediments are rare and it is posited that the reduced biogenic silica deposition at the equator is commensurate with an overall lack of equatorial upwelling in the early Paleogene ocean. In the Southern Ocean, we attribute the low in biosiliceous burial, to the warm deep water temperatures which would have impacted biogenic silica preservation. In the late Eocene, our sediment depositional maps record a tongue of radiolarian ooze in the eastern equatorial Pacific. Enhanced biosiliceous deposits in the late Eocene equatorial Pacific and Southern Ocean are due to increased productivity and the spin-up of the oceans. Our compilation documents the enhanced global carbonate sedimentation in the early Oligocene, confirming that the drop in the carbonate compensation depth was global.

Continue reading ‘Evolution of deep-sea sediments across the Paleocene-Eocene and Eocene-Oligocene boundaries’

Permian–Triassic mass extinction pulses driven by major marine carbon cycle perturbations

The Permian/Triassic boundary approximately 251.9 million years ago marked the most severe environmental crisis identified in the geological record, which dictated the onwards course for the evolution of life. Magmatism from Siberian Traps is thought to have played an important role, but the causational trigger and its feedbacks are yet to be fully understood. Here we present a new boron-isotope-derived seawater pH record from fossil brachiopod shells deposited on the Tethys shelf that demonstrates a substantial decline in seawater pH coeval with the onset of the mass extinction in the latest Permian. Combined with carbon isotope data, our results are integrated in a geochemical model that resolves the carbon cycle dynamics as well as the ocean redox conditions and nitrogen isotope turnover. We find that the initial ocean acidification was intimately linked to a large pulse of carbon degassing from the Siberian sill intrusions. We unravel the consequences of the greenhouse effect on the marine environment, and show how elevated sea surface temperatures, export production and nutrient input driven by increased rates of chemical weathering gave rise to widespread deoxygenation and sporadic sulfide poisoning of the oceans in the earliest Triassic. Our findings enable us to assemble a consistent biogeochemical reconstruction of the mechanisms that resulted in the largest Phanerozoic mass extinction.

Continue reading ‘Permian–Triassic mass extinction pulses driven by major marine carbon cycle perturbations’

Projected expansion of Trichodesmium’s geographical distribution and increase in growth potential in response to climate change

Estimates of marine N2 fixation range from 52 to 73 Tg N/year, of which we calculate up to 84% is from Trichodesmium based on previous measurements of nifH gene abundance and our new model of Trichodesmium growth. Here, we assess the likely effects of four major climate change‐related abiotic factors on the spatiotemporal distribution and growth potential of Trichodesmium for the last glacial maximum (LGM), the present (2006–2015) and the end of this century (2100) by mapping our model of Trichodesmium growth onto inferred global surface ocean fields of pCO2, temperature, light and Fe. We conclude that growth rate was severely limited by low pCO2 at the LGM, that current pCO2 levels do not significantly limit Trichodesmium growth and thus, the potential for enhanced growth from future increases in CO2 is small. We also found that the area of the ocean where sea surface temperatures (SST) are within Trichodesmium‘s thermal niche increased by 32% from the LGM to present, but further increases in SST due to continued global warming will reduce this area by 9%. However, the range reduction at the equator is likely to be offset by enhanced growth associated with expansion of regions with optimal or near optimal Fe and light availability. Between now and 2100, the ocean area of optimal SST and irradiance is projected to increase by 7%, and the ocean area of optimal SST, irradiance and iron is projected to increase by 173%. Given the major contribution of this keystone species to annual N2 fixation and thus pelagic ecology, biogeochemistry and CO2 sequestration, the projected increase in the geographical range for optimal growth could provide a negative feedback to increasing atmospheric CO2 concentrations.

Continue reading ‘Projected expansion of Trichodesmium’s geographical distribution and increase in growth potential in response to climate change’

The origin and diversification of pteropods precede past perturbations in the Earth’s carbon cycle

Pteropods are a group of planktonic gastropods that are widely regarded as biological indicators for assessing the impacts of ocean acidification. Their aragonitic shells are highly sensitive to acute changes in ocean chemistry. However, to gain insight into their potential to adapt to current climate change, we need to accurately reconstruct their evolutionary history and assess their responses to past changes in the Earth’s carbon cycle. Here, we resolve the phylogeny and timing of pteropod evolution with a phylogenomic dataset (2,654 genes) incorporating new data for 21 pteropod species and revised fossil evidence. In agreement with traditional taxonomy, we recovered molecular support for a division between “sea butterflies” (Thecosomata; mucus-web feeders) and “sea angels” (Gymnosomata; active predators). Molecular dating demonstrated that these two lineages diverged in the early Cretaceous, and that all main pteropod clades, including shelled, partially-shelled, and unshelled groups, diverged in the mid- to late Cretaceous. Hence, these clades originated prior to and subsequently survived major global change events, including the Paleocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM), the closest analog to modern-day ocean acidification and warming. Our findings indicate that planktonic aragonitic calcifiers have shown resilience to perturbations in the Earth’s carbon cycle over evolutionary timescales.

Continue reading ‘The origin and diversification of pteropods precede past perturbations in the Earth’s carbon cycle’

Incorporation of minor and trace elements into cultured brachiopods: implications for proxy application with new insights from a biomineralisation model

Brachiopods present a key fossil group for Phanerozoic palaeo-environmental and palaeo-oceanographical reconstructions, owing to their good preservation and abundance in the geological record. Yet to date, hardly any geochemical proxies have been calibrated in cultured brachiopods and only little is known on the mechanisms that control the incorporation of various key elements into brachiopod calcite. To evaluate the feasibility and robustness of multiple Element/Ca ratios as proxies in brachiopods, specifically Li/Ca, B/Ca, Na/Ca, Mg/Ca, Sr/Ca, Ba/Ca, as well as Li/Mg, we cultured Magellania venosa, Terebratella dorsata and Pajaudina atlantica under controlled experimental settings over a period of more than two years with closely monitored ambient conditions, carbonate system parameters and elemental composition of the culture medium. The experimental setup comprised of two control aquariums (pH0 = 8.0 and 8.15, T = 10 °C) and treatments where pCO2 − pH (pH1 = 7.6 and pH2 = 7.35), temperature (T = 16 °C) and chemical composition of the culture medium were manipulated. Our results indicate that the incorporation of Li and Mg is strongly influenced by temperature, growth effects as well as carbonate chemistry, complicating the use of Li/Ca, Mg/Ca and Li/Mg ratios as straightforward reliable proxies. Boron partitioning varied greatly between the treatments, however without a clear link to carbonate system parameters or other environmental factors. The partitioning of both Ba and Na varied between individuals, but was not systematically affected by changes in the ambient conditions. We highlight Sr as a potential proxy for DIC, based on a positive trend between Sr partitioning and carbonate chemistry in the culture medium. To explain the observed dependency and provide a quantitative framework for exploring elemental variations, we devise the first biomineralisation model for brachiopods, which results in a close agreement between modelled and measured Sr distribution coefficients. We propose that in order to sustain shell growth under increased DIC, a decreased influx of Ca2+ to the calcifying fluid is necessary, driving the preferential substitution of Sr2+ for Ca2+ in the crystal lattice. Finally, we conducted micro-computed tomography analyses of the shells grown in the different experimental treatments. We present pore space – punctae – content quantification that indicates that shells built under increased environmental stress, and in particular elevated temperature, contain relatively more pore space than calcite, suggesting this parameter as a potential novel proxy for physiological stress and even environmental conditions.

Continue reading ‘Incorporation of minor and trace elements into cultured brachiopods: implications for proxy application with new insights from a biomineralisation model’

Palaeoclimate ocean conditions shaped the evolution of corals and their skeletons through deep time

Identifying how past environmental conditions shaped the evolution of corals and their skeletal traits provides a framework for predicting their persistence and that of their non-calcifying relatives under impending global warming and ocean acidification. Here we show that ocean geochemistry, particularly aragonite–calcite seas, drives patterns of morphological evolution in anthozoans (corals, sea anemones) by examining skeletal traits in the context of a robust, time-calibrated phylogeny. The lability of skeletal composition among octocorals suggests a greater ability to adapt to changes in ocean chemistry compared with the homogeneity of the aragonitic skeleton of scleractinian corals. Pulses of diversification in anthozoans follow mass extinctions and reef crises, with sea anemones and proteinaceous corals filling empty niches as tropical reef builders went extinct. Changing environmental conditions will likely diminish aragonitic reef-building scleractinians, but the evolutionary history of the Anthozoa suggests other groups will persist and diversify in their wake.

Continue reading ‘Palaeoclimate ocean conditions shaped the evolution of corals and their skeletons through deep time’

Controls on the spatio-temporal distribution of microbialite crusts on the Great Barrier Reef over the past 30,000 years


  • Comprehensive dataset of reefal microbial crusts over the past 30,000 years.
  • Modern 3D analysis to assess heterogeneity of microbialites in reef frameworks.
  • Radiocarbon ages show microbialite development coeval with and postdating framework.
  • Microbialite thickness correlates with changes in carbonate saturation level and pH.


Calcification of microbial mats adds significant amounts of calcium carbonate to primary coral reef structures that stabilizes and binds reef frameworks. Previous studies have shown that the distribution and thicknesses of late Quaternary microbial crusts have responded to changes in environmental parameters such as seawater pH, carbonate saturation state, and sediment and nutrient fluxes. However, these studies are few and limited in their spatio-temporal coverage. In this study, we used 3D and 2D examination techniques to investigate the spatio-temporal distribution of microbial crusts and their responses to environmental changes in Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP) Expedition 325 (Great Barrier Reef Environmental Changes) fossil reef cores that span 30 to 10 ka at two locations on the GBR reef margin. Our GBR microbialite record was then combined with a meta-analysis of 17 other reef records to assess global scale changes in microbialite development (i.e., presence/absence, thickness) over the same period. The 3D results were compared with 2D surface area measurements to assess the accuracy of 2D methodology. The 2D technique represents an efficient and accurate proxy for the 3D volume of reef framework components within the bounds of uncertainty (average: 9.45 ± 4.5%). We found that deep water reef frameworks were most suitable for abundant microbial crust development. Consistent with a previous Exp. 325 study (Braga et al., 2019), we also found that crust ages were broadly coeval with coralgal communities in both shallow water and fore-reef settings. However, in some shallow water settings they also occur as the last reef framework binding stage, hundreds of years after the demise of coralgal communities. Lastly, comparisons of crust thickness with changes in environmental conditions between 30 and 10 ka, show a temporal correlation with variations in partial pressure of CO2 (pCO2), calcite saturation state (Ωcalcite), and pH of seawater, particularly during the past ~15 kyr, indicating that these environmental factors likely played a major role in microbialite crust development in the GBR. This supports the view that microbialite crust development can be used as an indicator of ocean acidification.

Continue reading ‘Controls on the spatio-temporal distribution of microbialite crusts on the Great Barrier Reef over the past 30,000 years’

Ocean acidification during the early Toarcian extinction event: evidence from boron isotopes in brachiopods

The loss of carbonate production during the Toarcian Oceanic Anoxic Event (T-OAE, ca. 183 Ma) is hypothesized to have been at least partly triggered by ocean acidification linked to magmatism from the Karoo-Ferrar large igneous province (southern Africa and Antarctica). However, the dynamics of acidification have never been directly quantified across the T-OAE. Here, we present the first record of temporal evolution of seawater pH spanning the late Pliensbachian and early Toarcian from the Lusitanian Basin (Portugal) reconstructed on the basis of boron isotopic composition (δ11B) of brachiopod shells. δ11B declines by ~1‰ across the Pliensbachian-Toarcian boundary (Pl-To) and attains the lowest values (~12.5‰) just prior to and within the T-OAE, followed by fluctuations and a moderately increasing trend afterwards. The decline in δ11B coincides with decreasing bulk CaCO3 content, in parallel with the two-phase decline in carbonate production observed at global scales and with changes in pCO2 derived from stomatal indices. Seawater pH had declined significantly already prior to the T-OAE, probably due to the repeated emissions of volcanogenic CO2. During the earliest phase of the T-OAE, pH increased for a short period, likely due to intensified continental weathering and organic carbon burial, resulting in atmospheric CO2 drawdown. Subsequently, pH dropped again, reaching the minimum in the middle of the T-OAE. The early Toarcian marine extinction and carbonate collapse were thus driven, in part, by ocean acidification, similar to other Phanerozoic events caused by major CO2 emissions and warming.

Continue reading ‘Ocean acidification during the early Toarcian extinction event: evidence from boron isotopes in brachiopods’

Subscribe to the RSS feed

Powered by FeedBurner

Follow AnneMarin on Twitter

Blog Stats

  • 1,400,314 hits


Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

OUP book