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Comparison of climate signals obtained from encrusting and free-living rhodolith coralline algae

Journal article
Authors S. Williams
J. Halfar
Thomas Zack
S. Hetzinger
M. Blicher
T. Juul-Pedersen
Published in Chemical Geology
Volume 476
Pages 418-428
ISSN 0009-2541
Publication year 2018
Published at Department of Earth Sciences
Pages 418-428
Language en
Keywords Red coralline algae, Sclerochronology, sea-surface temperature, ocean acidification, mg/ca ratios, red algae, resolution, proxy, reconstruction, patterns, growth, gulf, Geochemistry & Geophysics, eneck rs, 1986, annual review of ecology and systematics, v17, p273
Subject categories Geology


Coralline algae have been used for sclerochronological studies throughout the last decade. These studies have focused on two different growth morphologies of the photosynthetic coralline algae: massive crusts forming small buildups on hard substrate, and free-living branching algal nodules, known as rhodoliths. The latter are generally found on soft-substrate, where they are frequently overturned by water movement and bottom feeding organisms, leaving one side of the rhodolith partially buried in the sediment at any given time. Here we test whether either of these growth morphologies is more suitable for proxy reconstructions by comparing Mg/Ca ratios - a temperature proxy - in multiple replicates of rhodoliths of Lithothamnion glaciale and in rhodoliths as well as encrusting specimens of Clathromorphum compactum. With both species being widespread throughout the Temperate and Arctic regions, we have chosen two North Atlantic localities at Nuuk Fjord, Greenland (Subarctic), and off the southeastern coast of Newfoundland, Canada (Temperate), for this study. Two to three Mg/Ca ratio transects spanning 18 years of growth were analysed on multiple specimens with encrusting morphologies and along different sides of rhodoliths using laser ablation inductively coupled mass spectrometry and compared to remotely sensed sea surface temperature (SST) data. The length of the common time span used for comparison was limited by growth interruptions in rhodoliths. Furthermore, our comparison is based on the assumption that rhodolith growth increments are annual - an assumption that has recently been challenged by mesocosm studies. Monthly Mg/Ca values from multiple transects within each individual were compared and in samples from Nuuk fjord significant correlations were found in 4 of 4 encrusting C. compactum, 4 of 4 C. compactum rhodoliths, and 2 of 3 L. glaciale rhodoliths. In Newfoundland significant correlations were found in 6 of 6 encrusting C. compactum comparisons (average: r = 0.61, p < 0.001), and in 6 of 6 L. glaciale rhodolith comparisons (average: r = 0.43, p < 0.001) for monthly resolved time series. The monthly Mg/Ca ratios (n = 216) from each morphology were compared with instrumental Reynolds SST yielding the following correlations: encrusting C. compactum (r = 0.64, p < 0.001), C. compactum rhodolith (r = 0.62, p < 0.001) and L. glaciale (r = 0.58, p < 0.001). In Newfoundland both morphologies indicate a similar strength in recording SST: encrusting C. compactum (r = 0.85, p < 0.001) and rhodolith-forming L. glaciale (r = 0.84, p < 0.001). In summary, Mg/Ca ratios derived from both coralline algal growth forms can yield SST information, however, massive encrusting forms generally yield higher correlations to SST than transects measured on individual rhodoliths, which only allowed for the generation of short uninterrupted time series due to frequent growth irregularities.

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