Glacial/interglacial changes in nutrient supply and stratification in the western subarctic North Pacific since the penultimate glacial maximum

Brigitte G. Brunelle, Daniel Mikhail Sigman, Samuel L. Jaccard, Lloyd D. Keigwin, Birgit Plessen, Georg Schettler, Mea S. Cook, Gerald H. Haug

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79 Scopus citations


In piston cores from the open subarctic Pacific and the Okhotsk Sea, diatom-bound δ15N (δ15Ndb), biogenic opal, calcium carbonate, and barium were measured from coretop to the previous glacial maximum (MIS 6). Glacial intervals are generally characterized by high δ15Ndb (∼8‰) and low productivity, whereas interglacial intervals have a lower δ15Ndb (5.7-6.3‰) and indicate high biogenic productivity. These data extend the regional swath of evidence for nearly complete surface nutrient utilization during glacial maxima, consistent with stronger upper water column stratification throughout the subarctic region during colder intervals. An early deglacial decline in δ15Ndb of 2‰ at ∼17.5ka, previously observed in the Bering Sea, is found here in the open subarctic Pacific record and arguably also in the Okhotsk, and a case can be made that a similar decrease in δ15Ndb occurred in both regions at the previous deglaciation as well. The early deglacial δ15Ndb decrease, best explained by a decrease in surface nutrient utilization, appears synchronous with southern hemisphere-associated deglacial changes and with the Heinrich 1 event in the North Atlantic. This δ15Ndb decrease may signal the initial deglacial weakening in subarctic North Pacific stratification and/or a deglacial increase in shallow subsurface nitrate concentration. If the former, it would be the North Pacific analogue to the increase in vertical exchange inferred for the Southern Ocean at the time of Heinrich Event 1. In either case, the lack of any clear change in paleoproductivity proxies during this interval would seem to require an early deglacial decrease in the iron-to-nitrate ratio of subsurface nutrient supply or the predominance of light limitation of phytoplankton growth during the deglaciation prior to Bølling-Allerød warming.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2579-2590
Number of pages12
JournalQuaternary Science Reviews
Issue number19-20
StatePublished - Sep 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology
  • Geology


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