Articles | Volume 11, issue 12
Research article
09 Dec 2015
Research article |  | 09 Dec 2015

Development of coccolithophore-based transfer functions in the western Mediterranean sea: a sea surface salinity reconstruction for the last 15.5 kyr

B. Ausín, I. Hernández-Almeida, J.-A. Flores, F.-J. Sierro, M. Grosjean, G. Francés, and B. Alonso

Abstract. A new data set of 88 marine surface sediment samples and related oceanic environmental variables (temperature, salinity, chlorophyll a, oxygen, etc.) was studied to quantify the relationship between assemblages of coccolithophore species and modern environmental conditions in the western Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, west of the Strait of Gibraltar. Multivariate statistical analyses revealed that coccolithophore species were primarily related to sea surface salinity (SSS), explaining an independent and significant proportion of variance in the coccolithophore data. A quantitative coccolithophore-based transfer function to estimate SSS was developed using the modern analog technique (MAT) and weighted-averaging partial least square regression (WA-PLS). The bootstrapped regression coefficient (R2boot) was 0.85MAT and 0.80WA-PLS, with a root-mean-square error of prediction (RMSEP) of 0.29MAT and 0.30WA-PLS (psu). The resulting transfer function was applied to fossil coccolithophore assemblages in the highly resolved (~ 65 years) sediment core CEUTA10PC08 from the Alboran Sea (western Mediterranean) in order to reconstruct SSS for the last 25 kyr. The reliability of the reconstruction was evaluated by assessing the degree of similarity between fossil and modern coccolithophore assemblages and by a comparison of reconstructions with fossil ordination scores. Analogs were poor for the stadials associated with Heinrich events 2 and 1 and part of the Last Glacial Maximum. Good analogs indicate a more reliable reconstruction of the SSS for the last 15.5 kyr. During this period, several millennial and centennial SSS changes were observed and associated with sea-level oscillations and variations in the Atlantic Water entering the Alboran.

Short summary
Coccolithophore distribution in 88 surface sediment samples in the Atlantic Ocean and western Mediterranean was mainly influenced by salinity at 10m depth. A quantitative coccolithophore-based transfer function was developed and applied to a fossil sediment core to estimate sea surface salinity (SSS). The quality of this function and the reliability of the SSS reconstruction were assessed by statistical analyses and discussed. Several centennial SSS changes are identified for the last 15.5 ka.