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Warm plankton soup and red herrings: Calcareous nannoplankton cellular communities and the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum

Gibbs, S; Sheward, R; Bown, PR; Poulton, A; Alvarez, S; (2018) Warm plankton soup and red herrings: Calcareous nannoplankton cellular communities and the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum. Philosophical Transactions A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences (In press). Green open access

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Abstract

Past global warming events such as the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM - 56 Ma) are attributed to the release of vast amounts of carbon into the ocean, atmosphere and biosphere with recovery ascribed to a combination of silicate weathering and organic carbon burial. The phytoplanktonic nannoplankton are major contributors of organic and inorganic carbon but their role in this recovery process remains poorly understood and complicated by their contribution to marine calcification. Biocalcification is implicated not only in long-term carbon burial but also both short-term positive and negative climatic feedbacks associated with seawater buffering and responses to ocean acidification. Here, we use exceptional records of preserved fossil coccospheres to reconstruct cell size distribution, biomass production (particulate organic carbon, POC) and (particulate) inorganic carbon (PIC) yields of three contrasting nannoplankton communities (Bass River - outer shelf, Maud Rise - uppermost bathyal, Shatsky Rise - open ocean) through the PETM onset and recovery. Each of the sites show contrasting community responses across the PETM as a function of their taxic composition and total community biomass. Our results indicate that nannoplankton PIC:POC had no role in short-term climate feedback and, as such, their importance as a source of CO2 to the environment is a red herring. It is nevertheless likely that shifts to greater numbers of smaller cells at the shelf site in particular led to greater carbon transfer efficiency, and that nannoplankton productivity and export across the shelves had a significant modulating effect on carbon sequestration during the PETM recovery.

Type: Article
Title: Warm plankton soup and red herrings: Calcareous nannoplankton cellular communities and the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Publisher version: http://rsta.royalsocietypublishing.org/
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10050091
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