Response of pteropod and related faunas to climate change and ocean acidification
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Recent concern over the effects of ocean acidification upon calcifying organisms in the modern ocean has highlighted the aragonitic shelled thecosomatous pteropods as being at a high risk. Laboratory studies have shown that increased pCO2, leading to decreased pH and low carbonate concentrations, has a negative impact on the ability of pteropods to calcify and maintain their shells. This study presents the micropalaeontological analysis of marine cores from the Caribbean Sea, Mediterranean Sea and Indian Ocean. Pteropods, heteropods and planktic foraminifera were picked from samples to provide palaeoenvironmental data for each core. Determination of pteropod calcification was made using the Limacina Dissolution Index (LDX) and the average shell size of Limacina inflata specimens. Pteropod calcification indices were compared to global ice volume and Vostok atmospheric CO2 concentrations to determine any associations between climate and calcification. Results show that changes in surface ocean carbonate concentrations throughout the Late Pleistocene did affect the calcification of thecosomatous pteropods. These effects can be detected in shells from marine sediments that are located well above the aragonite lysocline and have not undergone post-depositional dissolution. The results of this study confirm the findings of laboratory studies, showing a decrease in calcification during interglacial periods, when surface ocean carbonate concentrations were lower. During glacial periods, calcification was enhanced due to the increased availability of carbonate. This trend was found in all sediments studied, indicating that the response of pteropods to past climate change is of global significance. These results demonstrate that pteropods have been negatively affected by oceanic pH levels relatively higher and changing at a lesser rate than those predicted for the 21st Century. Results also establish the use of pteropods and heteropods in reconstructing surface ocean conditions. The LDX is a fast and appropriate way of determining variations in surface water carbonate saturation. Abundances of key species were also found to constrain palaeotemperatures better than planktic foraminifera, a use which could be further developed.
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