Posts Tagged 'paleo'

Methods for reconstruction of paleo-seawater pH based on boron isotopes in evaporative depositional sequences: case study using the Cambrian–Lower Ordovician evaporite sequence in the Tarim Block, NW China

Evaluation of paleo-seawater pH is an important aspect to study the paleo-ocean environment. The Paleozoic strata lack foraminiferal shells; therefore, reconstruction of paleo-seawater pH is difficult. In this paper, the Cambrian–Lower Ordovician evaporate sequence present in the Tarim Basin is used as an example to work out methods for reconstruction of paleo-seawater pH for evaporate sequences through study of boron isotopes. Analysis of diagenetically unaltered samples yields δ11B values for normal seawater in an open environment ranging from 7.5 to 12.6‰ (average = 9.4‰) and those of evaporative salt-lake facies ranging from − 4.7 to − 1.8‰ (average = − 3.3‰). With increase in the rate of evaporation of seawater, its pH decreases gradually and the δ11B values of tricoordinated and tetracoordinated compounds decrease synchronously. Using a salt-lake brine with pH 7, δ11B value in sedimentary rock of − 3.3‰ and unfractionated δ11B in tetracoordinated B(OH)4 in solution, the average δ11B of the Middle Cambrian–Early Ordovician paleo-seawater came to be 16.2‰. It establishes a workable relationship between δ11B in sedimentary rock and seawater pH. The Middle Cambrian–Early Ordovician normal paleo-seawater pH estimated using the δ11B value of sedimentary rock representing the weakest evaporation intensity is ~ 9.1 that is 0.9 higher than pH of modern seawater. In these calculations, it is assumed that the total dissolved inorganic carbon is unchanged between the Cambrian–Early Ordovician paleo-seawater and modern seawater and the [CO32−] content in the paleo-seawater is greater by a factor of 2–3 than that in modern seawater. This increase in [CO32−] content is inferred to be one of the main factors for the widespread development of dolomite.

Continue reading ‘Methods for reconstruction of paleo-seawater pH based on boron isotopes in evaporative depositional sequences: case study using the Cambrian–Lower Ordovician evaporite sequence in the Tarim Block, NW China’

Planktic foraminifera form their shells via metastable carbonate phases

The calcium carbonate shells of planktic foraminifera provide our most valuable geochemical archive of ocean surface conditions and climate spanning the last 100 million years, and play an important role in the ocean carbon cycle. These shells are preserved in marine sediments as calcite, the stable polymorph of calcium carbonate. Here, we show that shells of living planktic foraminifers Orbulina universa and Neogloboquadrina dutertrei originally form from the unstable calcium carbonate polymorph vaterite, implying a non-classical crystallisation pathway involving metastable phases that transform ultimately to calcite. The current understanding of how planktic foraminifer shells record climate, and how they will fare in a future high-CO2 world is underpinned by analogy to the precipitation and dissolution of inorganic calcite. Our findings require a re-evaluation of this paradigm to consider the formation and transformation of metastable phases, which could exert an influence on the geochemistry and solubility of the biomineral calcite.

Continue reading ‘Planktic foraminifera form their shells via metastable carbonate phases’

Taphonomy and evolution of Lower Jurassic lithiotid bivalve accumulations in the Apennine Carbonate Platform (southern Italy)


• A description of Lower Jurassic lithiotid taphofacies in the Apennine Carbonate Platform
• A spectacular record of the appearance, flourishing and demise of the lithiotids
Cochlearites and Mytiloperna dominate with subordinate Lithioperna.
• The rock-forming importance of lithiotids decreases near the Pl-To boundary.
• The sudden demise of lithiotids occurs at the onset of the T-OAE.


Lower Jurassic Tethyan and Panthalassan marine shallow-water successions are characterized by aberrant lithiotid bivalves belonging to the Lithiotis Fauna. Their widespread occurrence, often in rock-forming abundance, represents a global biofacies, mostly restricted to the Pliensbachian–early Toarcian. Despite their wide occurrence and their prominent role as carbonate producers in shallow-water platforms, the biogeographic and stratigraphic distribution of this group of bivalves and their evolutionary history are obscure, mostly because they commonly have not been identified at the generic or specific level. In particular, their evolution and demise in relation to important global palaeoenvironmental perturbations, such as the Pliensbachian-Toarcian boundary event and the early Toarcian oceanic anoxic event are not yet known in detail.

In the Apennine Carbonate Platform of southern Italy, the Lithiotis Member, in the upper part of the Lower Jurassic Palaeodasycladus Limestones Formation, is characterized by the abundant occurrence of lithiotid bivalves. They disappear abruptly in the lowermost beds of the overlying Oolitic-oncolitic Limestones Formation, at the onset of the early Toarcian Oceanic Anoxic Event. More than 60 lithiotid bivalve concentrations occur in a nearly 120m-thick succession spectacularly exposed on freshly cut walls in a quarry west of Mercato San Severino (Salerno). Field observations on the taxonomic composition and fabric of the shell beds (packing, maximum shell size, degree of shell articulation and fragmentation) allowed to distinguish four taphofacies (A–D). Taphofacies A records the appearance and spreading of the lithiotids, with accumulations characterized mainly by small-sized and loosely packed shells. Taphofacies B records the acme of lithiotid bivalves, with densely packed accumulations of large shells. These two taphofacies yield prevailing articulated individuals, commonly in life position. Taphofacies C records a decrease of the shell packing and frequency of articulated shells. However, it is not clear whether this represents the beginning of a prolonged crisis or just the local response to less favourable environmental conditions around a sequence boundary. Taphofacies D consists of three shell beds, one in the uppermost part of the Lithiotis Member and two within the lowermost part of the Oolitic-oncolitic Limestones Formation, in the stratigraphic interval characterized by the negative carbon isotope excursion of the early Toarcian OAE. The bivalve shells of these two beds consist exclusively of disarticulated and fragmented shells, possibly reworked from underlying levels. The demise of the lithiotids carbonate factory in the Apennine Carbonate Platform and the extinction of the largest aberrant bivalves of the Lithiotis Fauna at the onset of the early Toarcian anoxic event were probably due to the physiological stress imposed by ocean acidification and increased nutrient input.


Continue reading ‘Taphonomy and evolution of Lower Jurassic lithiotid bivalve accumulations in the Apennine Carbonate Platform (southern Italy)’

Pteropods are excellent recorders of surface temperature and carbonate ion concentration

Pteropods are among the first responders to ocean acidification and warming, but have not yet been widely explored as carriers of marine paleoenvironmental signals. In order to characterize the stable isotopic composition of aragonitic pteropod shells and their variation in response to climate change parameters, such as seawater temperature, pteropod shells (Heliconoides inflatus) were collected along a latitudinal transect in the Atlantic Ocean (31° N to 38° S). Comparison of shell oxygen isotopic composition to depth changes in the calculated aragonite equilibrium oxygen isotope values implies shallow calcification depths for H. inflatus (75 m). This species is therefore a good potential proxy carrier for past variations in surface ocean properties. Furthermore, we identified pteropod shells to be excellent recorders of climate change, as carbonate ion concentration and temperature in the upper water column have dominant influences on pteropod shell carbon and oxygen isotopic composition. These results, in combination with a broad distribution and high abundance, make the pteropod species studied here, H. inflatus, a promising new proxy carrier in paleoceanography.

Continue reading ‘Pteropods are excellent recorders of surface temperature and carbonate ion concentration’

Very large release of mostly volcanic carbon during the Palaeocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum

The Palaeocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum1, 2 (PETM) was a global warming event that occurred about 56 million years ago, and is commonly thought to have been driven primarily by the destabilization of carbon from surface sedimentary reservoirs such as methane hydrates3. However, it remains controversial whether such reservoirs were indeed the source of the carbon that drove the warming1, 3, 4, 5. Resolving this issue is key to understanding the proximal cause of the warming, and to quantifying the roles of triggers versus feedbacks. Here we present boron isotope data—a proxy for seawater pH—that show that the ocean surface pH was persistently low during the PETM. We combine our pH data with a paired carbon isotope record in an Earth system model in order to reconstruct the unfolding carbon-cycle dynamics during the event6, 7. We find strong evidence for a much larger (more than 10,000 petagrams)—and, on average, isotopically heavier—carbon source than considered previously8, 9. This leads us to identify volcanism associated with the North Atlantic Igneous Province10, 11, rather than carbon from a surface reservoir, as the main driver of the PETM. This finding implies that climate-driven amplification of organic carbon feedbacks probably played only a minor part in driving the event. However, we find that enhanced burial of organic matter seems to have been important in eventually sequestering the released carbon and accelerating the recovery of the Earth system

Continue reading ‘Very large release of mostly volcanic carbon during the Palaeocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum’

Influence of solution chemistry on the boron content in inorganic calcite grown in artificial seawater

The ratio of boron to calcium (B/Ca) in marine biogenic carbonates has been proposed as a proxy for properties of seawater carbonate chemistry. Applying this proxy to planktic foraminifera residing in the surface seawater largely in equilibrium with the atmosphere may provide a critical constraint on past atmospheric CO2 concentrations. However, precise controls on B/Ca in planktic foraminifera remain enigmatic because it has been shown to depend on multiple physicochemical seawater properties. To help establish a firm inorganic basis for interpreting the B/Ca records, we examined the effect of a suite of chemical parameters ([Ca2+], pH, [DIC], salinity and [PO43-]) on B/Ca in inorganic calcite precipitated in artificial seawater. These parameters were primarily varied individually while keeping all others constant, but we also tested the influence of pH and [DIC] at a constant calcite precipitation rate (R) by concurrent [Ca2+] adjustments. In the simple [Ca2+], pH and [DIC] experiments, both R and B/Ca increased with these parameters. In the pH–[Ca2+] and [DIC]–[Ca2+] experiments at constant R, on the other hand, B/Ca was invariant at different pH and decreased with [DIC], respectively. These patterns agree with the behavior of solution [BTotal/DIC] ratio such that, at a fixed [BTotal], it is independent of pH but decreases with [DIC]. Based on these results, R and [BTotal/DIC] ratio appear to be the primary controls on B/Ca in inorganic calcite, suggesting that both B(OH)4 and B(OH)3 are possibly involved in B incorporation. Moreover, B/Ca modestly increased with salinity and [PO43-]. Inorganic calcite precipitated at higher R and in the presence of oxyanions such as SO42- and PO43- in growth solutions often undergoes surface roughening due to formation of crystallographic defects, vacancies and, occasionally, amorphous/hydrous CaCO3.These non-lattice sites may provide additional space for B, particularly B(OH)3. Consequently, besides the macroscopic influence of R and bulk solution chemistry, molecular-scale processes associated with calcite nucleation can be an important consideration for B incorporation, especially in complex ionic solutions. Lastly, the covariance of B/Ca with [DIC] and salinity observed here qualitatively agrees with those in planktic foraminifers. It follows that their impact on foraminiferal B/Ca is partly inorganically driven, which may explain why the effect is evident across different species.

Continue reading ‘Influence of solution chemistry on the boron content in inorganic calcite grown in artificial seawater’

Modern planktic foraminifers in the high-latitude ocean


  • We review the knowledge on modern high-latitude planktic foraminifers.
  • Subpolar species currently invade higher latitudes.
  • Climate change affects phenology, seawater pH, and carbon turnover.
  • Modern planktic foraminifers are briefly discussed for their paleoceanographic significance.


Planktic foraminifers can be sensitive indicators of the changing environment including both the Arctic Ocean and Southern Ocean. Due to variability in their ecology, biology, test characteristics, and fossil preservation in marine sediments, they serve as valuable archives in paleoceanography and climate geochemistry over the geologic time scale. Foraminifers are sensitive to, and can therefore provide proxy data on ambient water temperature, salinity, carbonate chemistry, and trophic conditions through shifts in assemblage (species) composition and the shell chemistry of individual specimens. Production and dissolution of the calcareous shell, as well as growth and remineralization of the cytoplasm, affect the carbonate counter pump and to a lesser extent the soft-tissue pump, at varying regional and temporal scales. Diversity of planktic foraminifers in polar waters is low in comparison to lower latitudes and is limited to three native species: Neogloboquadrina pachyderma, Turborotalita quinqueloba, and Globigerina bulloides, of which N. pachyderma is best adapted to polar conditions in the surface ocean. Neogloboquadrina pachyderma hibernates in brine channels in the lower layers of the Antarctic sea ice, a strategy that is presently undescribed in the Arctic. In open Antarctic and Arctic surface waters T. quinqueloba and G. bulloides increase in abundance at lower polar to subpolar latitudes and Globigerinita uvula, Turborotalita humilis, Globigerinita glutinata, Globorotalia inflata, and Globorotalia crassaformis complement the assemblages. Over the past two to three decades there has been a marked increase in the abundance of Orcadia riedeli and G. uvula in the subpolar and polar Indian Ocean, as well as in the northern North Atlantic. This paper presents a review of the knowledge of polar and subpolar planktic foraminifers. Particular emphasis is placed on the response of foraminifers to modern warming and ocean acidification at high latitudes and the implications for data interpretation in paleoceanography and paleoclimate research.

Continue reading ‘Modern planktic foraminifers in the high-latitude ocean’

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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

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