Arctic Ocean benthic foraminifera preservation and Mg/Ca ratios Implications for bottom water palaeothermometry

University dissertation from Stockholm : Department of Geological Sciences, Stockholm University

Abstract: Reconstructions of Arctic Ocean palaeotemperatures are needed to disentangle natural variability from anthropogenic changes and understand the role of ocean heat transport in forcing or providing feedbacks on Arctic climate change. Despite known complications with calcareous microfossil preservation in Arctic Ocean sediments, calcareous benthic foraminifera can be common in interglacial sequences. However, thus far they have been underutilized in palaeoceanographic studies. This thesis explores the application of the Mg/Ca palaeothermometry proxy for reconstructing bottom water temperatures (BWT) in the Arctic Ocean during the late Quaternary. This method, which is supported by previous empirical studies demonstrating a strong temperature control on trace Mg inclusion into foraminiferal shell calcite, has been applied in many ocean regions and time intervals. Until now its application in the Arctic Ocean has been sparingly explored.The results of this doctoral thesis are based on benthic foraminifera retrieved from marine sediment cores covering a wide geographical Arctic Ocean area including both the shallow and vast continental shelves and slopes to the intermediate-to-deep waters of the Lomonosov Ridge and Morris Jesup Rise. These provide the first benthic foraminifera Mg/Ca ratios from the central Arctic Ocean region. In the first study, mechanisms that could affect Mg incorporation in Arctic benthic foraminifera are investigated using oceanographic field data and six 'live' modern Arctic species (Elphidium clavatum, Nonionella labradorica, Cassidulina neoteretis, Oridorsalis tener, Cibicidoides wuellerstorfi and Quinqueloculina arctica). The result is new species-specific Mg/Ca–BWT field calibrations that provide important constraints at the cold end of the BWT spectrum (-2 to 1°C) (Paper I). Using the new Mg/Ca–BWT equation for E. clavatum, a palaeotemperature record was generated for the late Holocene (past ca. 4100 yr) from the western Chukchi Sea. The data showed BWT fluctuations from -2 to 1°C that are interpreted as showing pulses of warmer Pacific water inflow at 500–1000 yr periods, thus revealing multi-centennial variability in heat transport into the Arctic Ocean driven by low latitude forcings (Paper II). Complications with foraminiferal calcite preservation that limit Mg/Ca palaeothermometry in the Arctic were discovered and these are tackled in two additional papers. Anomalously high Mg content in benthic foraminifera from the central Arctic Ocean is linked to diagenetic contamination as a result of the unique oceanographic, sedimentary and geochemical environment (Paper III). Lastly, the dramatic post-recovery dissolution of foraminifera from a Chukchi Shelf sediment core during core storage is investigated and attributed to acidification driven by sulphide oxidation in this organic rich and calcite poor shelf setting (Paper IV).The findings of this thesis demonstrate that benthic foraminiferal Mg/Ca-palaeothermometry can be applied in the Arctic Ocean and capture small BWT change (on the order of -2 to 2°C) even at low temperatures. In practice, preservational complexities can be limiting and require special sample handling or analysis due to the high potential for diagenetic contamination in the central Arctic Ocean and rapid post coring calcite dissolution in the seasonally productive shelf seas. This Ph.D. project is a component of the multidisciplinary SWERUS-C3 (Swedish-Russian-US Arctic Ocean Climate-Cryosphere- Carbon Interactions) project that included an expedition with Swedish icebreaker Oden to the East Siberian Arctic Ocean.

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