X-ray fluorescence (XRF) scanning of sediment cores from the Lomonosov Ridge and the Morris Jesup Rise reveals a distinct pattern of Ca intensity peaks through Marine Isotope Stages (MIS) 1 to 7. Downcore of MIS 7, the Ca signal is more irregular and near the detection limit. Virtually all major peaks in Ca coincide with a high abundance of calcareous microfossils; this is particularly conspicuous in the cores from the central Arctic Ocean. However, the recorded Ca signal is generally caused by a combination of biogenic and detrital carbonate, and in areas influenced by input from the Canadian Arctic, detrital carbonates may effectively mask the foraminiferal carbonates. Despite this, there is a strong correlation between XRF-detected Ca content and foraminiferal abundance. We propose that in the Arctic Ocean north of Greenland a common palaeoceanographic mechanism is controlling Ca-rich ice-rafted debris (IRD) and foraminiferal abundance. Previous studies have shown that glacial periods are characterized by foraminfer-barren sediments. This implies that the Ca-rich IRD intervals with abundant foraminifera were most likely deposited during interglacial periods when glaciers left in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago were still active and delivered a large amount of icebergs. At the same time, conditions were favourable for planktic foraminifera, resulting in a strong covariance between these proxies. Therefore, we suggest that the XRF scanner’s capability to efficiently map Ca concentrations in sediment cores makes it possible to systematically examine large numbers of cores from different regions to investigate the palaeoceanographic reasons for the calcareous microfossils’ spatial and temporal variability.