Articles | Volume 8, issue 6
Clim. Past, 8, 1957–1971, 2012
Clim. Past, 8, 1957–1971, 2012

Research article 07 Dec 2012

Research article | 07 Dec 2012

Exploring the controls on element ratios in middle Eocene samples of the benthic foraminifera Oridorsalis umbonatus

C. F. Dawber1 and A. K. Tripati2,3,4 C. F. Dawber and A. K. Tripati
  • 1Department of Earth Sciences, University of Cambridge, Downing Street, Cambridge, CB1 2EQ, UK
  • 2Department of Earth and Space Sciences, University of California, Los Angeles, USA
  • 3Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, University of California, Los Angeles, USA
  • 4Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, University of California, Los Angeles, USA

Abstract. Culturing studies and empirically based core top calibrations have been used to infer that elemental ratios in benthic foraminifera can be used as proxies to reconstruct past variations in bottom water temperature and saturation state (Δ [CO32−]). However the mechanisms linking elemental ratios to these parameters are poorly constrained. Here, we explore the environmental parameters influencing the incorporation of B, Li, Sr and Mg in Oridorsalis umbonatus in early Cenozoic sediments from Ocean Drilling Program Site 1209. We investigate the influence of middle Eocene variations in intermediate water Δ [CO32−] using relationships developed from core top samples. The fidelity of bottom water Δ[CO32−] reconstructions based on single element ratios is assessed by comparing the X/Ca-based reconstructions to each other and to carbon cycle proxy records (benthic foraminifera δ13C, organic carbon content, foraminifera dissolution indices), and a seawater δ18O reconstruction for Site 1209. Discrepancies in the reconstructed Δ[CO32−] values based on these different metal ratios suggest that there are still gaps in our understanding of the parameters influencing X/Ca and demonstrate that caution is required when interpreting palaeo-reconstructions that are derived from a single elemental ratio. The downcore record of O. umbonatus Mg/Ca does not exhibit any similarities with the Li/Ca, B/Ca and Sr/Ca records, suggesting that the environmental parameters influencing Mg/Ca may be different for this species, consistent with temperature as the strongest control on this elemental ratio. This hypothesis is supported by the coefficients of multiple linear regression models on published Mg/Ca data. An incomplete understanding of the controls on elemental incorporation into benthic foraminifera hinders our ability to confidently quantify changes in saturation state using single X/Ca reconstructions over a range of timescales.