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Deep Ocean Carbonate Chemistry and Glacial-Interglacial
Atmospheric CO₂ Changes

Yu, Jimin; Anderson, Robert F.; Rohling, Eelco J.

Changes in deep ocean carbonate chemistry have profound implications for glacial-interglacial atmospheric CO₂ changes. Here, we review deep ocean carbonate ion concentration ([CO₃²⁻]) changes based on the benthic foraminiferal boron-to-calcium ratio (B/Ca) and their links to global carbon reorganization since the last ice age. Existing deep ocean [CO₃²⁻] reconstructions are consistent with changes in the biological pump, in ocean stratification, and in the associated oceanic alkalinity inventory as key mechanisms for modulating atmospheric CO₂ on glacial-interglacial time scales. We find that the global mean deep ocean [CO₃²⁻] was roughly similar between the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM; 18,000–22,000 years ago) and the Late Holocene (0–5,000 years ago). In view of elevated glacial surface [CO₃²⁻], this indicates enhanced storage of respiratory carbon in a more alkaline deep ocean during the LGM. During early deglaciation, rising [CO₃²⁻] at three locations in the deep ocean suggests a release of deep-sea CO₂ to the atmosphere, probably via the Southern Ocean. Both increased late deglacial carbonate burial in deep-sea sediments due to elevated [CO₃²⁻] and Holocene expansion of coral reefs on newly flooded continental shelves depleted global ocean alkalinity, which reduced CO₂ solubility in seawater and contributed to atmospheric CO₂ rises at these times.


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Academic Units
Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
Published Here
October 7, 2015