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Increased nutrient supply to the Southern Ocean during the Holocene and its implications for the pre-industrial atmospheric CO_2 rise

Studer, Anja S. and Sigman, Daniel M. and Martínez-García, Alfredo and Thöle, Lena M. and Michel, Elisabeth and Jaccard, Samuel L. and Lippold, Jörg A. and Mazaud, Alain and Wang, Xingchen T. and Robinson, Laura F. and Adkins, Jess F. and Haug, Gerald H. (2018) Increased nutrient supply to the Southern Ocean during the Holocene and its implications for the pre-industrial atmospheric CO_2 rise. Nature Geoscience, 11 (10). pp. 756-760. ISSN 1752-0894.

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A rise in the atmospheric CO_2 concentration of ~20 parts per million over the course of the Holocene has long been recognized as exceptional among interglacials and is in need of explanation. Previous hypotheses involved natural or anthropogenic changes in terrestrial biomass, carbonate compensation in response to deglacial outgassing of oceanic CO_2, and enhanced shallow water carbonate deposition. Here, we compile new and previously published fossil-bound nitrogen isotope records from the Southern Ocean that indicate a rise in surface nitrate concentration through the Holocene. When coupled with increasing or constant export production, these data suggest an acceleration of nitrate supply to the Southern Ocean surface from underlying deep water. This change would have weakened the ocean’s biological pump that stores CO_2 in the ocean interior, possibly explaining the Holocene atmospheric CO_2 rise. Over the Holocene, the circum-North Atlantic region cooled, and the formation of North Atlantic Deep Water appears to have slowed. Thus, the ‘seesaw’ in deep ocean ventilation between the North Atlantic and the Southern Ocean that has been invoked for millennial-scale events, deglaciations and the last interglacial period may have also operated, albeit in a more gradual form, over the Holocene.

Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription ReadCube access
Studer, Anja S.0000-0001-7354-8497
Sigman, Daniel M.0000-0002-7923-1973
Martínez-García, Alfredo0000-0002-7206-5079
Thöle, Lena M.0000-0002-5405-3613
Jaccard, Samuel L.0000-0002-5793-0896
Wang, Xingchen T.0000-0001-5316-789X
Adkins, Jess F.0000-0002-3174-5190
Alternate Title:Increase in Southern Ocean surface nutrients may explain the Holocene atmospheric CO2 rise
Additional Information:© 2018 Springer Nature. Received: 23 January 2017; Accepted: 26 June 2018; Published: 30 July 2018. This study was supported by Swiss NSF grant PBEZP2_145695 to A.S.S., US NSF grants 1401489 and 1234664 to D.M.S., Swiss NSF grant PZ00P2_142424 to A.M.-G., grants PP00P2-144811 and PP00P2_172915 to S.L.J., by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft through grant Li1815/4 to J.A.L., by funding from the Swedish Research Council VR-349-2012-6278 to E.M., from the Natural Environment Research Council NE/N003861/1 to L.F.R., and from the French INSU/LEFE Indien Sud to A.M. This research was also supported by ExxonMobil through the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment at Princeton University and by the Grand Challenges Program of Princeton University. Cores MD11-3353 and MD12-3396CQ were retrieved during Indien Sud oceanographic cruises (A.M.) and we express our thanks to the crew of the R/V Marion Dufresne as well as the French Polar Institute (IPEV). The authors thank K. Hendry, M. Palmer and B. Heinz for their valuable input, and X. Crosta for his help with diatom species identification. Author Contributions: A.S.S., D.M.S., A.M.-G. and G.H.H. designed the study. A.S.S. performed the δ^(15)N_(db) analyses and wrote the first draft of the manuscript with D.M.S., A.M.-G. and G.H.H. L.M.T., S.L.J. and J.A.L. contributed the ^(230)Th-normalized opal flux data. E.M. and A.M. provided access to the sediment cores and measured the radiocarbon ages for the construction of the age model. L.F.R. and J.F.A. recovered the corals, and X.T.W. generated the coral-bound δ^(15)N data. All authors contributed to the interpretation of the data and provided input to the final manuscript. Data availability: Data supporting the findings of this study are available within the Article and its Supplementary Information files. Data are also available on Pangaea at The authors declare no competing interests.
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF)PBEZP2_145695
Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF)PZ00P2_142424
Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF)PP00P2-144811
Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF)PP00P2_172915
Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG)Li1815/4
Swedish Research CouncilVR-349-2012-6278
Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)NE/N003861/1
Institut national des sciences de l'Univers (INSU)UNSPECIFIED
Les Enveloppes Fluides de l'Environnement (LEFE)UNSPECIFIED
Princeton UniversityUNSPECIFIED
Issue or Number:10
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20180612-092939297
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Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:86993
Deposited By: George Porter
Deposited On:31 Jul 2018 16:50
Last Modified:09 Mar 2020 13:19

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