As oceanographic changes in the North Atlantic are known to modulate global climate, they are key to the understanding of past and future climate changes. Especially the mid-latitudes of the open ocean North Atlantic may be of interest, regarding the large area covered. We therefore reconstructed past changes in productivity and hydrography from a new sediment core (MD08-3179Cq) taken in the open ocean mid-latitude North Atlantic in the vicinity of the Azores Current System. Concomitant to the reorganizations of environmental conditions in the North Atlantic between 130 and 48ka BP, changes in coccolithophore assemblages and changes in the abundance of siliceous plankton (diatoms) indicate a southward shift of the Azores Front (AzF), and hence a southward retreat of the North Atlantic subtropical gyre, as well as an increased productivity, during glacial Marine Isotope Stage (MIS) 4, Termination II and during cold substages of MIS 5. Furthermore we hypothesize that the ecological changes led to distinct evolutionary patterns of coccolithophores, resulting e.g. in a dominance of Gephyrocapsa ornata between 76 and 105ka BP. Additionally, high-resolution analysis of MIS 5e indicate a short reversal towards cool conditions during MIS 5e, corresponding to a basin-wide cooling event. Full interglacial conditions are reached only late in the Azores region. During MIS 5e an increased advection of Subantarctic Mode Water (SAMW), and/or the possibility to occupy new habitats after glacial conditions, result in a distinct coccolithophore productivity peak. As global temperature during MIS 5e are assumed to be similar to the expected future global climate change, MIS 5e serves as a possible scenario for future changes. Taking MIS 5e as a possible analogue for expected future climate change, our results indicate that an expected decrease in marine primary productivity, due to the expansion of the oligotrophic gyres, may be attenuated by increased coccolithophore productivity.
Quaternary Science Reviews, 2013, Vol 81, Issue 1, p. 35-47