New magnetobiostratigraphic chronology and paleoceanographic changes across the Oligocene-Miocene boundary at DSDP Site 516 (Rio Grande Rise, SW Atlantic)

  • Fabio Florindo, Rocco Gennari, Davide Persico, Elena Turco, Giuliana Villa, Pontus C. Lurcock, Andrew P. Roberts, Aldo Winkler, Lionel Carter, Stephen F. Pekar
  • Paleoceanography, June 2015, American Geophysical Union (AGU)
  • DOI: 10.1002/2014pa002734

What is it about?

Around 23 million years ago, Antarctica experienced a dramatic cooling event, its ice cover more than doubling over a relatively brief period. Using new magnetic and biological analyses of sediments sampled in 1980 the southern Atlantic, we have produced a revised, more accurate record of the local changes in ocean conditions before, during, and after this event. We found that the sedimentation rate increased continually for the million years leading up to the ice expansion. This sedimentation increase was related to increased plankton growth at the ocean surface, with the shells of dead plankton falling to the sea floor as sediment.

Why is it important?

The plankton remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and bury the carbon in sediments when they fall to the sea floor. The long-term increase in carbon burial seen in our study may have played an important part in the sudden Antarctic cooling which followed it. Investigating connections like this helps us to understand how Antarctica responds to changes in atmospheric carbon dioxide.


Dr Pontus C Lurcock
Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia

There is still a lot of uncertainty as to how Antarctica will react to the ongoing dramatic increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide caused by human activities. With enough ice on Antarctica to raise sea levels by 58 metres, it's a problem that deserves our attention. Sedimentary records can tell us how the carbon cycle affected Antarctica in the past, helping us to predict what our present emissions will mean for the future of the ice sheets.

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The following have contributed to this page: Dr Pontus C Lurcock