Potential and limitations of Sr/Ca ratios in coccolith carbonate: new perspectives from cultures and monospecific samples from sediments

mgeisen [ at ] awi-bremerhaven.de


The Sr/Ca ratio of coccoliths was recently proposed as a potential indicator of past growth rates of coccolithophorids, marine algae, which play key roles in both the global carbonate and carbon cycles. We synthesize calibrations of this proxy through laboratory culture studies and analysis of monospecific coccolith assemblages from surface sediments. Cultures of coccolithophorids Helicosphaera carteri, Syracosphaera pulchra and Algirospira robusta confirm a 12% increase in Sr/Ca per °C previously identified in Emiliania huxleyi and Gephyrocapsa oceanica. This effect is not due merely to increases in growth rate with temperature and must be considered in palaeoceanographic studies. In light-limited cultures of E. huxleyi, Calcidiscus leptoporus and G. oceanica at constant temperature, coccolith Sr/Ca ratios vary by 10% across the range of possible growth and calcification rates for a given species. Among dioerent species under similar culture conditions, Sr/Ca ratios vary by 30%. Although the highest ratios are in the cells with highest calcifcation and organic carbon fixation rates, at lower rates there is much scatter, indicating that dioerent mechanisms control interspecific and intraspecioc coccolith Sr/Ca variations. In field studies in the Equatorial Pacific and Somalia coastal region, coccolith Sr/Ca correlates with upwelling intensity and productivity. A more dynamic response is observed in larger coccoliths like C. leptoporus (2355% variation in Sr/Ca) than in smaller coccoliths of G. oceanica or Florisphaera profunda (615% variation in Sr/Ca). This response suggests that, despite temperature effects, coccolith Sr/Ca has potential as an indicator of coccolithophorid productivity. If the variable Sr/Ca response of dioerent species accurately reflects their variable productivity response to upwelling (and not different slopes of Sr/Ca with productivity), coccolith Sr/Ca could provide useful data on past changes in coccolith ecology. The mechanism of coccolith Sr/Ca variations remains poorly understood but is probably more closely tied to biochemical cycles during carbon acquisition than to chemical kinetic effects on Sr incorporation in the calcite coccolith crystals.

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Stoll, H. M. , Ziveri, P. , Geisen, M. , Probert, I. and Young, J. R. (2002): Potential and limitations of Sr/Ca ratios in coccolith carbonate: new perspectives from cultures and monospecific samples from sediments , Philosophical transactions of the royal society of london series a-mathematical physical and engineering sciences, 1793 , pp. 710-747 .

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