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High latitude regulation of low latitude thermocline ventilation and planktic foraminifer populations across glacial-interglacial cycles

Sexton, Philip F. and Norris, Richard D. (2011). High latitude regulation of low latitude thermocline ventilation and planktic foraminifer populations across glacial-interglacial cycles. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 311(1-2) pp. 69–81.

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One of the earliest discoveries in palaeoceanography was the observation in 1935 that the (sub)tropical planktic foraminifer Globorotalia menardii became absent or extremely rare in the Atlantic Ocean during glacials of the late Pleistocene. Yet a mechanistic explanation for G. menardii’s extraordinary biogeographic behaviour has eluded palaeoceanographers for 75 years. Here we show that modern G. menardii, along with two other species that also suffer Atlantic population collapses during glacials, track poorly ventilated waters globally in their thermocline habitats. The ventilation states of low latitude thermoclines are ‘set’, to a first order, by intermediate water masses originating at high latitudes. In the modern Atlantic this control on low latitude thermocline ventilation is exerted by relatively poorly ventilated, southern-sourced Antarctic Intermediate Water (AAIW) and sub-Antarctic Mode Water (SAMW). We suggest that the glacial Atlantic foraminifer population collapses were a consequence of a low latitude thermocline that was better ventilated during glacials than it is today, in line with geochemical evidence, and driven primarily by a well-ventilated, northern-sourced intermediate water mass. A ventilation mechanism driving the glacial population collapses is further supported by our new constraints on the precise timing of these species’ Atlantic proliferation during the last deglaciation – occurring in parallel with a wholesale, bipolar reorganisation of the Atlantic’s thermocline-to-abyssal overturning circulation. Our findings demonstrate that a bipolar seesaw in the formation of high latitude intermediate waters has played an important role in regulating the population dynamics of thermocline-dwelling plankton at lower latitudes.

Item Type: Journal Item
Copyright Holders: 2011 Elsevier B.V.
ISSN: 0012-821X
Keywords: plankton biogeography; ocean circulation; ocean biogeochemistry; thermocline; Atlantic Ocean; Pleistocene
Academic Unit/School: Faculty of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) > Environment, Earth and Ecosystem Sciences
Faculty of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)
Item ID: 30154
Depositing User: Philip Sexton
Date Deposited: 17 Nov 2011 09:07
Last Modified: 08 Dec 2018 04:47
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