Posts Tagged 'paleo'

Boron isotopes as a proxy for pH in siliceous and calcareous marine algae

Rising CO2 in the atmosphere has directly led to a reduction in surface ocean pH -a process known as ocean acidification. There is a need to understand past climates in terms of ocean pH change in order to be able to relate these to the current effects of climate change on marine organisms. One way of doing this is by measuring boron isotopes in marine carbonates, such as foraminifera and corals, to estimate past ocean pH, and thus to infer past pCO2. Key regions of atmospheric-ocean CO2 exchange are the Southern Ocean and subarctic North Pacific, and they are also areas where modern ocean acidification is occurring fastest. The current application of the boron isotope proxy is restricted in these high latitude regions due to lack of calcareous organisms preserved in the sediment here. Therefore, there is a need to expand the boron isotope proxy into novel materials, such as diatoms and coralline algae, which are found in these key high latitude habitats in abundance.
This thesis aims to investigate whether the hard parts of marine algae (siliceous: di-atoms; calcareous: coralline algae) are suitable archives for the boron isotope pH proxy. This is achieved by examining: (i) which boron species could be incorporated into the frustule/skeleton; (ii) the relationship between boron isotopic composition and seawater pH, and hence the sensitivity of boron isotopes in each organism to changes in seawater pH; (iii) the palaeo-archive potential of each organism. These aims are addressed by developing a method to measure boron isotopes and boron content of diatoms by MC-ICP-MS, calibrating the boron-pH relationships in a species of diatom using culturing experiments, applying this calibration to sedimentary diatoms collected from a core in the subarctic North Pacific, and also by investigating the relationship between boron isotopes and seawater pH in a species of coralline algae.

Continue reading ‘Boron isotopes as a proxy for pH in siliceous and calcareous marine algae’

The evolution of deep ocean chemistry and respired carbon in the Eastern Equatorial Pacific over the last deglaciation

It has been shown that the deep Eastern Equatorial Pacific (EEP) region was poorly ventilated during the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) relative to Holocene values. This finding suggests a more efficient biological pump, which indirectly supports the idea of increased carbon storage in the deep ocean contributing to lower atmospheric CO2 during the last glacial. However, proxies related to respired carbon are needed in order to directly test this proposition. Here we present Cibicides wuellerstorfi B/Ca ratios from Ocean Drilling Program Site 1240 measured by laser ablation inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (LA-ICPMS) as a proxy for deep water carbonate saturation state (Δ[CO32−], and therefore [CO32−]), along with δ13C measurements. In addition, the U/Ca ratio in foraminiferal coatings has been analyzed as an indicator of oxygenation changes. Our results show lower [CO32−], δ13C, and [O2] values during the LGM, which would be consistent with higher respired carbon levels in the deep EEP driven, at least in part, by reduced deep water ventilation. However, the difference between LGM and Holocene [CO32−] observed at our site is relatively small, in accordance with other records from across the Pacific, suggesting that a “counteracting” mechanism, such as seafloor carbonate dissolution, also played a role. If so, this mechanism would have increased average ocean alkalinity, allowing even more atmospheric CO2 to be “sequestered” by the ocean. Therefore, the deep Pacific Ocean very likely stored a significant amount of atmospheric CO2 during the LGM, specifically due to a more efficient biological carbon pump and also an increase in average ocean alkalinity.

Continue reading ‘The evolution of deep ocean chemistry and respired carbon in the Eastern Equatorial Pacific over the last deglaciation’

Environmental changes during the cretaceous-Paleogene mass extinction and Paleocene-Eocene thermal maximum: Implications for the Anthropocene

Highlights

• Rapid warming and ocean acidification directly linked to Deccan volcanism and KPB mass extinction.
• Rapid warming and ocean acidification linked to NAIP volcanism, methane degassing and PETM faunal turnover.
• Anthropocene’s CO2 input and environmental changes 12-16 × faster than PETM or KPB.
• PETM is best-case analog for Anthropocene; KPB is worst-case analog leading to sixth mass extinction.

Abstract

The Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary (KPB) mass extinction (~ 66.02 Ma) and the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM) (~ 55.8 Ma) are two remarkable climatic and faunal events in Earth’s history that have implications for the current Anthropocene global warming and rapid diversity loss. Here we evaluate these two events at the stratotype localities in Tunisia and Egypt based on climate warming and environmental responses recorded in faunal and geochemical proxies. The KPB mass extinction is commonly attributed to the Chicxulub impact, but Deccan volcanism appears as a major culprit. New mercury analysis reveals that major Deccan eruptions accelerated during the last 10 ky and reached the tipping point leading up to the mass extinction. During the PETM, climate warmed rapidly by ~ 5 °C, which is mainly attributed to methane degassing from seafloor sediments during global warming linked to the North Atlantic Igneous Province (NAIP). Biological effects were transient, marked by temporary absence of most planktic foraminifera due to ocean acidification followed by the return of the pre-PETM fauna and diversification. In contrast, the current rapid rise in atmospheric CO2 and climate warming are magnitudes faster than at the KPB or PETM events leading to predictions of a PETM-like response as best case scenario and rapidly approaching sixth mass extinction as worst-case scenario.

Continue reading ‘Environmental changes during the cretaceous-Paleogene mass extinction and Paleocene-Eocene thermal maximum: Implications for the Anthropocene’

Deccan volcanism induced high-stress environment during the Cretaceous–Paleogene transition at Zumaia, Spain: evidence from magnetic, mineralogical and biostratigraphic records

Highlights

• The biostratigraphic record of the basal Danian at Zumaia is incomplete.
• Hiatus and turbidites question the calibration of the Zumaia geological timescale.
• Akaganéite occurrence suggests widespread stratospheric transport of Deccan aerosols.
• Decrease in magnetite content at the KTB suggests environmental changes.
• Mercury anomalies reinforce the link between Deccan volcanism and the KPg mass extinction.

Abstract

We conducted detailed rock magnetic, mineralogical and geochemical (mercury) analyses spanning the Cretaceous–Paleogene boundary (KPB) at Zumaia, Spain, to unravel the signature of Deccan-induced climate and environmental changes in the marine sedimentary record. Our biostratigraphic results show that Zumaia is not complete, and lacks the typical boundary clay, zone P0 and the base of zone P1a(1) in the basal Danian. Presence of an unusual ∼1m-thick interval spanning the KPB is characterized by very low detrital magnetite and magnetosome (biogenic magnetite) contents and by the occurrence of akaganéite, a very rare mineral on Earth in oxidizing, acidic and hyper-chlorinated environments compatible with volcanic settings. These benchmarks correlate with higher abundance of the opportunist Guembelitria cretacea species. Detrital magnetite depletion is not linked to significant lithological changes, suggesting that iron oxide dissolution by acidification is the most probable explanation. The concomitant decrease in magnetosomes, produced by magnetotactic bacteria at the anoxic–oxic boundary, is interpreted as the result of changes in seawater chemistry induced by surficial ocean acidification. Mercury peaks up to 20–50 ppb are common during the last 100 kyr of the Maastrichtian (zone CF1) but only one significant anomaly is present in the early Danian, which is likely due to the missing interval. Absence of correlation between mercury content (R2 = 0.009) and total organic carbon (R2 = 0.006) suggest that the former originated from the Deccan Traps eruptions. No clear relation between the stratigraphic position of the mercury peaks and the magnetite-depleted interval is observed, although the frequency of the mercury peaks tends to increase close to the KPg boundary. In contrast to Bidart (France) and Gubbio (Italy), where magnetite depletion and akaganéite feature within a ∼50cm-thick interval located 5 cm below the KPg boundary, the same benchmarks are observed in a 1m-thick interval encompassing the KPg boundary at Zumaia. Results reinforce the synchronism of the major eruptions of the Deccan Traps Magmatic Province with the Cretaceous–Paleogene (KPg) mass extinction and provide new clues to better correlate the Deccan imprint of the global sedimentary record.

Continue reading ‘Deccan volcanism induced high-stress environment during the Cretaceous–Paleogene transition at Zumaia, Spain: evidence from magnetic, mineralogical and biostratigraphic records’

Instability and breakdown of the coral–algae symbiosis upon exceedence of the interglacial pCO2 threshold (>260 ppmv): the “missing” Earth-System feedback mechanism

Changes in the atmospheric partial pressure of CO2 (pCO2) leads to predictable impacts on the surface ocean carbonate system. Here, the importance of atmospheric pCO2 <260 ppmv is established for the optimum performance (and stability) of the algal endosymbiosis employed by a key suite of tropical reef-building coral species. Violation of this symbiotic threshold is revealed as a prerequisite for major historical reef extinction events, glacial–interglacial feedback climate cycles, and the modern decline of coral reef ecosystems. Indeed, it is concluded that this symbiotic threshold enacts a fundamental feedback mechanism needed to explain the characteristic dynamics (and drivers) of the coupled land–ocean–atmosphere carbon cycle of the Earth System since the mid-Miocene, some 25 million yr ago.

Continue reading ‘Instability and breakdown of the coral–algae symbiosis upon exceedence of the interglacial pCO2 threshold (>260 ppmv): the “missing” Earth-System feedback mechanism’

DISCO – Drivers and impacts of coastal ocean acidification

Ocean acidification, mainly attributed to the increasing anthropogenic CO2 in the atmosphere, is characterised by a lowering pH together with a shift in the sea water carbonate chemistry toward lower concentration of carbonate ions. On the coasts, where the environmental variability is high due to natural and human impacts, ocean acidification mainly affects the frequency, magnitude, and duration of lower pH and lower calcium carbonate saturation events. Coastal ecosystems are adapted to environmental variability such as frequent changes in salinity, temperature, pH, oxygen levels and organic matter content. However, the effects of an increase of the range of this variability on coastal species, and especially on calcifiers, are still not clear. In this context, this thesis explores the impacts of coastal ocean acidification combined with other environmental stressors on benthic foraminifera.

In the Skagerrak-Baltic Sea region, foraminifera faunas varied along a strong gradient in terms of salinity, pH, and dissolved oxygen concentration, and species were adapted to local environmental stressors. However, the specimens of Ammonia spp. and Elphidium spp. observed in the south Baltic Sea were partially to completely dissolved, probably due to a combination of different stressors affecting the required energy for biomineralisation.

In a culture study, the coastal species Ammonia spp. and E. crispum were found to be resistant to dissolution under varying salinity and pH, which reflects the environmental variations in their natural habitats. However, their resistance to lower pH is decreased when cultured in brackish water conditions, and living decalcified specimens were also observed under a salinity of 5. This underlines the importance of a high salinity in the calcification process of foraminifera.

At the entrance of the Baltic Sea, environmental changes during the last 200 years were reconstructed using foraminiferal faunas. Four periods were identified with varying oxygen levels, salinity, organic matter content, and pollution with lower pH. This highlights that foraminiferal faunas were able to adapt to multiple environmental stressors.

This thesis concludes that, even if coastal species of foraminifera can tolerate extremely varying conditions in their environment on the short term, it is likely that tolerance thresholds will be passed for benthic ecosystems under the future increase in anthropogenic impacts such as coastal ocean acidification.

Further studies of micro-organisms such as foraminifera will be necessary to improve our understanding of past environmental changes and to put present and future changes into a larger context.

Continue reading ‘DISCO – Drivers and impacts of coastal ocean acidification’

Variations to calcareous nannofossil CaCO3 content during the middle Eocene C21r-H6 hyperthermal event (~ 47.4 Ma) in the Gorrondatxe section (Bay of Biscay, western Pyrenees)

Highlights

• Dissolution on the seabed occurred during some of the Eocene hyperthermal events.
The CaCO3 mass of Chiasmolithus solitus decreased by 50% over the C21r-H6 event.
Lysocline rose to 1500 m paleobathymetry in the Bay of Biscay.
• Formation of corrosive bottom water in the North Atlantic Ocean raised the lysocline.

Abstract

The carbonate content of calcareous nannofossils is dependent on seawater composition. One of the factors that affect seawater chemistry and consequently the degree of calcification in coccolithophores is temperature, as seen in present day warming oceans. The depth at which carbonates are dissolved (Calcite Compensation depth, CCD) can rise due to an increase in HCO3 and decrease in pH, leading to a major dissolution on the seabed and burndown. Similar processes have also been deduced for Eocene hyperthermal events, such as the PETM and ETM2. This study reports changes in coccolith carbonate mass from a hemipelagic setting (Gorrondatxe, at 1500 m paleodepth) during the core of a minor Eocene hyperthermal event, namely the C21r-H6 event (47.44–47.32 Ma). Image analysis techniques were used to determine differences in the carbonate mass of selected calcareous nannofossil taxa, revealing species-specific patterns. The CaCO3 mass of Chiasmolithus solitus decreased by 50% over the course of the C21r-H6 event, and many specimens also lost their crossed central bars, an additional indication of mass loss; Reticulofenestra sp. (3–5 μm) showed a similar trend, but the percentage of mass lost was lower; Toweius pertusus, interpreted as being reworked, mirrored the behaviour of Chiasmolithus solitus, suggesting that the CaCO3 mass loss may have occurred on the seabed, rather than in the water column. In general, it can be concluded that the lysocline rose to 1500 m paleobathymetry in the Bay of Biscay during the C21r-H6 event. Formation of corrosive bottom water in the North Atlantic Ocean is regarded as being responsible for the rise in the lysocline.

Continue reading ‘Variations to calcareous nannofossil CaCO3 content during the middle Eocene C21r-H6 hyperthermal event (~ 47.4 Ma) in the Gorrondatxe section (Bay of Biscay, western Pyrenees)’


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