Antarctic Drilling Program


Date of this Version



Marine Micropaleontology 106, January (2014), pp. 110–129; doi: 10.1016/j.marmicro.2014.01.001.


Copyright © 2014 Elsevier. Used by permission.


The Middle Eocene Climatic Optimum (MECO; ~ 40 million years ago [Ma]) is one of the most prominent transient global warming events in the Paleogene. Although the event is well documented in geochemical and isotopic proxy records at many locations, the marine biotic response to the MECO remains poorly constrained. We present new high-resolution, quantitative records of siliceous microplankton assemblages from the MECO interval of Ocean Drilling Program (ODP) Site 1051 in the subtropical western North Atlantic Ocean, which are interpreted in the context of published foraminiferal and bulk carbonate stable isotope (δ18O and δ13C) records. High diatom, radiolarian and silicoflagellate accumulation rates between 40.5 and 40.0 Ma are interpreted to reflect an ~ 500 thousand year (kyr) interval of increased nutrient supply and resultant surface-water eutrophication that was associated with elevated sea-surface temperatures during the prolonged onset of the MECO. Relatively low pelagic siliceous phytoplankton sedimentation accompanied the peak MECO warming interval and the termination of the MECO during an ~ 70 kyr interval centered at ~ 40.0 Ma. Following the termination of the MECO, an ~ 200-kyr episode of increased siliceous plankton abundance indicates enhanced nutrient levels between ~ 39.9 and 39.7 Ma. Throughout the Site 1051 record, abundance and accumulation rate fluctuations in neritic diatom taxa are similar to the trends observed in pelagic taxa, implying either similar controls on diatom production in the neritic and pelagic zones of the western North Atlantic or fluctuations in sea level and/or shelf accommodation on the North American continental margin to the west of Site 1051. These results, combined with published records based on multiple proxies, indicate a geographically diverse pattern of surface ocean primary production changes across the MECO. Notably, however, increased biosiliceous accumulation is recorded at both ODP Sites 1051 and 748 (Southern Ocean) in response to MECO warming. This may suggest that increased biosiliceous sediment accumulation, if indeed a widespread phenomenon, resulted from higher continental silicate weathering rates and an increase in silicic acid supply to the oceans over several 100 kyr during the MECO.