Marine Science Faculty Publications


The Oxygen Isotope Composition of Planktonic Foraminifera from the Cariaco Basin, Venezuela: Seasonal and Interannual Variations

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Cariaco Basin, Depth habitats, Oxygen isotopes, Planktonic foraminifera

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Material collected during a three-year sediment trapping experiment in the Cariaco Basin, Venezuela (January 1997 to December 1999) is used to examine both temporal and inter-species variability in the oxygen isotope composition of planktonic foraminifera. Specifically, this study compares the oxygen isotope composition of six species of planktonic foraminifera (Globigerinoides ruber (pink), Globigerina bulloides, Neogloboquadrina dutertrei, Orbulina universa, Globorotalia menardii and Globorotalia crassaformis) with the climatology and hydrography of the region, and evaluates the application of each species for use in paleoceanographic reconstructions. The isotope results are consistent with known depth habitats for all six species. The lowest δ18O values (- 1 to - 2‰) were measured on G. ruber (pink) and G. bulloides, two species that live in the surface mixed layer. Values for deeper-dwelling species such as N. dutertrei, G. menardii and G. crassaformis are higher, predominantly ranging from 0 to - 0.5‰. Temperature estimates derived using species-specific paleotemperature equations indicate that G. ruber (pink) accurately estimates sea surface temperatures (SSTs) throughout the year, while G. bulloides temperature estimates are similar to measured surface temperatures only during the upwelling season (January-April). For the remainder of the year, the δ18O-derived temperatures for G. bulloides typically are lower than the measured SST. Although the maximum flux of all species occurs during upwelling, the flux-weighted annual mean isotopic composition of the six species indicates that only G. bulloides is biased towards this season. Therefore, we conclude that the sediment δ18O record of G. ruber (pink) is most suitable for estimating past values of mean annual SST, while G. bulloides provides information on conditions during spring upwelling. The depth of calcification of N. dutertrei varies seasonally in response to changes in the depths of the thermocline and chlorophyll maximum. As a result, the δ18O difference between G. ruber (pink) and N. dutertrei provides an estimate of the annual surface to thermocline temperature gradient in the basin.

Citation / Publisher Attribution

Marine Micropaleontology, v. 62, issue 3, p. 180-193