Main content area

Dynamic surface-water alterations during sapropel S1 preserved in high-resolution shallow-water sediments of Taranto Gulf, central Mediterranean

Maiorano, Patrizia, Marino, Maria, De Lange, Gert J.
Palaeogeography, palaeoclimatology, palaeoecology 2019 v.534 pp. 109340
Bacillariophyceae, Helicosphaera, bromine, carbonates, chlorophyll, climatic factors, ecosystems, light intensity, microfossils, nutrient availability, nutrients, organic matter, oxygen, plankton, salinity, sedimentation rate, sediments, surface water, turbidity, Mediterranean region
The high sedimentation rate and shallow-water depositional depth of the sediments at site DP 30 in the Gulf of Taranto (central Mediterranean) provide unique biogenic signals that are usually not preserved in deeper records. This permits the reconstruction of long and short-term surface water modifications across the sapropel S1 period (10–6.5 ka), including calcareous nannofossil data at centennial-scale resolution.The peculiar patterns of key taxa allowed the recognition of distinct long to short-term surface water changes that provide valuable evidence on climate conditions leading to sapropel deposition. As a long-term pattern, S1 is marked by a distinct increase of Helicosphaera carteri, thought to reflect increased detrital input/land-derived nutrients in the surface water, related to a higher influence of the Western Adriatic Current. A concomitant pattern of increased black organic particles in the sediments supports a connection between organic matter preservation at the seafloor and nutrient availability in the surface water. Decreased salinity in the surface water, testified by an increase of Braurudosphaera bigelowii, develops from 9.2 up to 6.5 ka.At higher frequencies, additional changes occurred in surface-subsurface waters during the formation of S1 at shallow depths. Starting from 11 ka, the relative abundance pattern of Florisphaera profunda indicates a gradual nutrient enrichment in the subsurface waters and the development of a deep chlorophyll maximum (DCM), which becomes well established at the onset of sapropel S1, between 10 and 9 ka. A further change in the plankton ecosystem occurs between 9 and 8.2 ka, when reduced coccolithophore production is concomitant with diatom occurrence and enhanced Br/Ti level, implying a productivity increase. From 8 to 6.5 ka, coccolithophore productivity is re-established in relation to a reduction both in surface-water stratification and turbidity/nutrient availability, characterizing the final phase of sapropel formation. The turbidity in the surface waters was briefly reduced at 8.2 and 7.3 ka, when also oxygen conditions at the seafloor improved. A centennial variability in turbidity/low light conditions in surface waters is evident across S1 and is illustrated by the abundance patterns of H. carteri and Gladiolithus flabellatus. The occurrence of ascidian spicules also represents a distinct biotic signal across the S1 layer, indicating an increase of shallow-water biogenic carbonate or an aragonitic near-coastal source. Surface-water modifications at longer and shorter time scales, accompanying the deposition of sapropel S1 in the Gulf of Taranto, occurred nearly simultaneously and with a magnitude that is comparable to changes observed in S1 deposits in the central and eastern Mediterranean basin and slope settings.