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Climate variations, an overlooked factor influencing the recent marine environment. An example from Gullmar Fjord, Sweden, illustrated by benthic foraminifera and hydrographic data

Journal article
Authors Helena L. Filipsson
Kjell Nordberg
Published in Estuaries
Volume 27
Issue 5
Pages 867-881
ISSN 0160-8347
Publication year 2004
Published at Department of Earth Sciences
Pages 867-881
Language en
Links <Go to ISI>://000225305100011
Keywords swedish west-coast, north-atlantic oscillation, atmospheric circulation, oxygen concentrations, water masses, koljo-fjord, baltic sea, hypoxia, level, drammensfjord
Subject categories Earth and Related Environmental Sciences


Like most sill fjords, Gullmar Fjord on the Swedish west coast, is subject to periods of stagnation. Deep water is usually renewed annually, but since the late 1970s several low-oxygen events have been documented in the deepest part of the fjord. These events occurred during a time when the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) was in a highly positive phase. We investigated how the benthic environment, in the deepest part of the fjord, has varied during the 20th century, using benthic foraminifera. and an extensive history of instrumental hydrographic data. The foraminifera have undergone one major faunal change and two minor modifications during this time. The major faunal change occurred in the late 1970s to early 1980s, when the common Skagerrak-Kattegat fauna was replaced by one dominated by the opportunistic, low-oxygen-tolerant species, Stainforthia fusiformis. This major faunal change appears to be related to the severe low-oxygen event in 1979-1980. In the latter part of the 1990s the fauna changed again; the concentration of S. fusiformis was still high, but other low-oxygen-tolerant species also became important. This minor faunal modification occurred in connection with the 2-yr stagnation period between 1996 and 1998 when a low-oxygen event evolved, the most severe recorded in Gullmar Fjord. Between 1930 and 1980, there was little faunal variation, and a stable fjord environment is indicated. During this time, negative NAO indexes dominated and climate was more continental, with an increase in winds from the northeast and east. In connection with a climate transition indicated by the NAO index switching from positive to negative, a minor faunal change occurred in the late 1920s to early 1930s: the concentration of the Skagerrak-Kattegat fauna increased markedly in the fjord. The fauna characterizing the positive NAO phase between 1900 and the late 1920s is very different from the present positive NAO fauna. The foraminiferal record laid down between approximately 1914 and 2001 indicates that between 1930 and 1980 Gullmar Fjord was a stable fjord environment. During the last 20 yr, it experienced conditions that were more fluctuating and changing. For the most part, changes in the foraminiferal fauna are caused by changes in the deep-water renewal, their extent and frequency, which in turn are caused by climatic oscillations.

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