Variations in export production, lithogenic sediment transport and iron fertilization in the Pacific sector of the Drake Passage over the past 400 kyr

Lester.Lembke-Jene [ at ]


Changes in Southern Ocean export production have broad biogeochemical and climatic implications. Specifically, iron fertilization likely increased subantarctic nutrient utilization and enhanced the efficiency of the biological pump during glacials. However, past export production in the subantarctic southeastern Pacific is poorly documented, and its connection to Fe fertilization, potentially related to Patagonian Ice Sheet dynamics, is unknown. We report biological productivity changes over the past 400 kyr, based on a combination of 230Thxs-normalized and stratigraphy-based mass accumulation rates of biogenic barium, organic carbon, biogenic opal and calcium carbonate as indicators of paleo-export production in a sediment core upstream of the Drake Passage (57.5∘ S, 70.3∘ W). In addition, we use fluxes of iron and lithogenic material as proxies for terrigenous input, and thus potential micronutrient supply. Stratigraphy-based mass accumulation rates are strongly influenced by bottom-current dynamics, which result in variable sediment focussing or winnowing at our site. Carbonate is virtually absent in the core, except during peak interglacial intervals of the Holocene, and Marine Isotope Stages (MIS) 5 and 11, likely caused by transient decreases in carbonate dissolution. All other proxies suggest that export production increased during most glacial periods, coinciding with high iron fluxes. Such augmented glacial iron fluxes at the core site were most likely derived from glaciogenic input from the Patagonian Ice Sheet promoting the growth of phytoplankton. Additionally, glacial export production peaks are also consistent with northward shifts of the Subantarctic and Polar Fronts, which positioned our site south of the Subantarctic Front and closer to silicic acid-rich waters of the Polar Frontal Zone. However, glacial export production near the Drake Passage was lower than in the Atlantic and Indian sectors of the Southern Ocean, which may relate to complete consumption of silicic acid in the study area. Our results underline the importance of micro-nutrient fertilization through lateral terrigenous input from South America rather than eolian transport and exemplify the role of frontal shifts and nutrient limitation for past productivity changes in the Pacific entrance to the Drake Passage.

Item Type
Primary Division
Primary Topic
Helmholtz Cross Cutting Activity (2021-2027)
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Eprint ID
DOI 10.5194/cp-18-147-2022

Cite as
Toyos, M. H. , Winckler, G. , Arz, H. W. , Lembke-Jene, L. , Lange, C. B. , Kuhn, G. and Lamy, F. (2022): Variations in export production, lithogenic sediment transport and iron fertilization in the Pacific sector of the Drake Passage over the past 400 kyr , Climate of the Past, 18 , pp. 147-166 . doi: 10.5194/cp-18-147-2022

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