Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/cp-2021-134
https://doi.org/10.5194/cp-2021-134

  04 Oct 2021

04 Oct 2021

Review status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal CP.

Summer sea-ice variability on the Antarctic margin during the last glacial period reconstructed from snow petrel (Pagodroma nivea) stomach-oil deposits

Erin L. McClymont1, Michael J. Bentley1, Dominic A. Hodgson2,1, Charlotte L. Spencer-Jones1, Thomas Wardley1, Martin D. West1, Ian W. Croudace3, Sonja Berg4, Darren R. Gröcke5, Gerhard Kuhn6, Stewart S. R. Jamieson1, Louise Sime2, and Richard A. Phillips2 Erin L. McClymont et al.
  • 1Department of Geography, Durham University, Durham, DH1 3LE, United Kingdom
  • 2British Antarctic Survey, Natural Environment Research Council, Cambridge, CB3 0ET, United Kingdom
  • 3Ocean and Earth Science, University of Southampton, National Oceanography Centre, Southampton, SO14 3ZH, United Kingdom
  • 4Institute of Geology and Mineralogy, University of Cologne, Cologne, D-50674, Germany
  • 5Department of Earth Science, Durham University, Durham, DH1 3LE, United Kingdom
  • 6Alfred-Wegener-Institut Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung, Bremerhaven, D-27568, Germany

Abstract. Antarctic sea ice is a critical component of the climate system, affecting a range of physical and biogeochemical feedbacks, and supporting unique ecosystems. During the last glacial stage, Antarctic sea ice was more extensive than today, but uncertainties in geological (marine sediments), glaciological (ice core), and climate model reconstructions of past sea-ice extent continue to limit our understanding of its role in the Earth system. Here, we present a novel archive of past sea-ice environments from regurgitated stomach oils of snow petrels (Pagodroma nivea), preserved at nesting sites in Dronning Maud Land, Antarctica. We show that by combining information from fatty acid distributions and their stable carbon isotope ratios with measurements of bulk carbon and nitrogen stable isotopes and trace metal data, it is possible to reconstruct changing snow petrel diet within Marine Isotope Stage 2 (ca. 22.6–28.8 cal. kyr BP). We show that, as today, a mixed diet of krill and fish characterises much of the record. However, between 25.7–26.8 cal. kyr BP signals of krill almost disappear. By linking dietary signals in the stomach-oil deposits to modern feeding habits and foraging ranges, we infer the use by snow petrels of open water habitats (‘polynyas’) in the sea ice during our interval of study. The periods when consumption of krill was reduced are interpreted to correspond to the opening of polynyas over the continental shelf, which became the preferred foraging habitat. Our results challenge hypotheses that the development of extensive, thick, multi-year sea-ice close to the continent was a key driver of positive sea ice-climate feedbacks during glacial stages, and highlight the potential of stomach-oil deposits as a palaeo-environmental archive of Southern Ocean conditions.

Erin L. McClymont et al.

Status: open (until 29 Nov 2021)

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  • RC1: 'Comment on cp-2021-134', Anonymous Referee #1, 20 Oct 2021 reply

Erin L. McClymont et al.

Erin L. McClymont et al.

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Short summary
Sea ice is important for our climate system, and for the unique ecosystems it supports. We present a novel way to understand past Antarctic sea ice ecosystems: using the regurgitated stomach contents of snow petrels, which nest above the ice sheet but feed in the sea-ice pack. During a time when sea ice was more extensive than today (22,000–29,000 years ago), we show that snow petrel diet had varying contributions of fish and krill, which we interpret to show changing sea ice distribution.