Climate variability and ocean fertility during the Aptian Stage
Abstract. Several studies have been conducted to reconstruct temperature variations across the Aptian Stage, particularly during early Aptian Oceanic Anoxic Event (OAE) 1a. There is a general consensus that a major warming characterized OAE 1a, although some studies have provided evidence for transient "cold snaps" or cooler intervals during the event. The climatic conditions for the middle–late Aptian are less constrained, and a complete record through the Aptian is not available. Here we present a reconstruction of surface-water palaeotemperature and fertility based on calcareous nannofossil records from the Cismon and Piobbico cores (Tethys) and DSDP Site 463 (Pacific Ocean). The data, integrated with oxygen-isotope and TEX86 records, provide a detailed picture of climatic and ocean fertility changes during the Aptian Stage, which are discussed in relation to the direct/indirect role of volcanism. Warm temperatures characterized the pre-OAE 1a interval, followed by a maximum warming (of ~ 1.5–2 °C) during the early phase of anoxia under intense volcanic activity of the Ontong Java Plateau (OJP). A short-lived cooling episode interrupted the major warming, following a rapid increase in weathering rates. Nannofossils indicate that mesotrophic conditions were reached when temperatures were at their highest and OJP volcanism most intense, thus suggesting that continental runoff, together with increased input of hydrothermal metals, increased nutrient supply to the oceans. The latter part of OAE 1a was characterized by cooling events, probably promoted by CO2 sequestration during burial of organic matter. In this phase, high productivity was probably maintained by N2-fixing cyanobacteria, while nannofossil taxa indicating higher fertility were rare. The end of anoxia coincided with the cessation of volcanism and a pronounced cooling. The mid-Aptian was characterized by highest surface-water fertility and progressively decreasing temperatures, probably resulting from intense continental weathering drawing down pCO2. The lowest temperatures, combined with low fertility, were reached in the middle–late Aptian across the interval characterized by blooming of Nannoconus truittii. The prolonged cooling was followed by significant warming across the Aptian–Albian boundary. The data presented suggest that OJP activity played a direct role in inducing global warming during the early Aptian, whereas other mechanisms (weathering, deposition of organic matter) acted as feedback processes, favouring temporary cooler interludes.