Late Miocene through early Pleistocene nutrient utilization and export production in the Antarctic Zone of the Southern Ocean

1024 681 Stroud Water Research Center

Billups, K., A.K. Aufdenkampe, and R. Hays. 2013. Global and Planetary Change 100:353–361.



We use bulk sediment δ15N values and opal and carbon mass accumulation rates (MAR) to reconstruct nutrient utilization and export productivity at Ocean Drilling Program Site 745 (Antarctic Zone of the Southern Ocean) spanning the late Miocene through early Pleistocene (~ 6.5–1.4 Ma). We investigate whether early Pliocene climatic warmth and subsequent cooling can be related to changes in high latitude productivity. Results indicate that δ15N values increase to above late Holocene levels from the late Miocene through the late Pliocene (6.5 to 2 Ma). Opal and carbon MARs are low during the early Pliocene. Relatively high δ15N together with low export production is consistent with a more southerly position of the Polar Frontal Zone (PFZ) allowing the expansion of nitrate depleted, low nutrient upper waters south toward Site 745. The interpretation is supported by a relatively small δ15N gradient between Site 745 and a site in the Subantarctic Zone of the Southern Ocean (Site 1090). There are no unique changes in the Site 745 δ15N values or export productivity at 2.7 Ma. During the late Pliocene to early Pleistocene climate transition (between ~ 2.1 and at 1.7 Ma), δ15N values display large variations approaching those observed during the last glacial to interglacial transition in this latitude band. Opal and carbon MARs also show large fluctuations, but in the opposite sense with maxima corresponding to minima in the δ15N record and vice versa. The pattern of high δ15N values associated with low export production may reflect changes in nutrient utilization in response to changes in water column stratification once the PFZ has moved north of the location of Site 745. Our results provide a mechanism for enhancing early Pliocene CO2 concentrations via reduced uptake of CO2 due to low productivity in the Southern Ocean. Once the PFZ has moved north, the region may have become sensitive to changes in water column stratification, potentially contributing to fluctuations in CO2.