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Benthic foraminifera from the Carnarvon Ramp reveal variability in Leeuwin Current activity (Western Australia) since the Pliocene

June 1, 2018

Benthic foraminiferal assemblages from a ~300 m deep core from an outer carbonate-ramp site off Western Australia (International Ocean Discovery Program Core U1460A) were examined to reconstruct the paleoceanographic evolution of the Carnarvon Ramp and the warm surficial Leeuwin Current (LC) for the last 3.54 Ma. Of the identified 179 benthic foraminiferal species, occurrences of the 15 most abundant taxa were assessed using Q-mode Cluster Analysis and Non-Metric Dimensional Scaling. Diversity, equitability, planktonic/benthic index, microhabitat preference, and sedimentary parameters such as lithology and sponge spicule content were analyzed to gather information about past intermediate- and surface-water circulation. Relative abundances of infaunal and epifaunal species were applied to indicate changes in organic-matter supply and oxygenation at the sea floor.

Influence of upwelling was recognized by a high infaunal species ratio, with dominance by Uvigerina peregrina, Lagena annellatrachia and Trifarina bradyi. Epifaunal species such as Hanzawaia nipponica and Hyalinea florenceae gradually became more abundant around 1.14 Ma, indicating increased ventilation and establishment of the paleo-LC. A more substantial change was initiated by 0.91 Ma as marked by key species Spirorutilus carinatus and Rotorbinella sp., together with increased faunal diversity, benthic foraminiferal accumulation rates, and evidence for suspension feeding sponges. With the LC flow suppressing upwelling, and better ventilated waters entering the shelf, the environment favored epifaunal agglutinates, rotalids, and miliolids, while buliminids decreased. Under high-flow conditions of the LC, sponge spicules and skeletal carbonate production reached an optimum at ~0.6 Ma before returning to modern conditions. Supported by these observations, we propose the following paleoceanographic evolution of the Carnarvon Ramp:

During the late Pliocene to mid Pleistocene (3.54–0.91 Ma) conditions of deep-water upwelling from the Western Australian Current and Indian Ocean Gyre indicate the absence of the capping LC on the outer carbonate ramp.

A transitional phase started in the mid Pleistocene (1.14–0.61 Ma). The paleo-LC triggered gradual oxygenation at the sediment-water interface, which coincided with an increase in carbonate sedimentation rates, and waning sea-surface productivity.

During a third phase, mid Pleistocene to present (0.91–0 Ma), the LC’s intensity and flow rates peaked at ~0.6 Ma. Benthic foraminiferal accumulation rates reached a high, then decreased to present-day rates. For short periods, sea-surface productivity was moderately enhanced, likely due to fluctuating LC persistence or landward shift during glacial maxima.

Publication Year 2018
Title Benthic foraminifera from the Carnarvon Ramp reveal variability in Leeuwin Current activity (Western Australia) since the Pliocene
DOI 10.1016/j.marmicro.2018.05.005
Authors Christian Haller, Pamela Hallock, Albert C. Hine, Christopher G. Smith
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Marine Micropaleontology
Index ID 70226900
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center