Sedimentological, geochemical and palaeontological evidence for a neoglacial cold event during the late Holocene in the continental shelf of the northern South Shetland Islands, West Antarctica
AbstractTwo sediment cores obtained from the continental shelf of the northern South Shetland Islands, West Antarctica, consist of: an upper unit of silty mud, bioturbated by a sluggish current, and a lower unit of well-sorted, laminated silty mud, attributed to an intensified Polar Slope Current. Geochemical and accelerator mass spectrometry 14C analyses yielded evidence for a late Holocene increase in sea-ice extent and a decrease in phytoplankton productivity, inferred from a reduction in the total organic carbon content and higher C : N ratios, at approximately 330 years B.P., corresponding to the Little Ice Age. Prior to this, the shelf experienced warmer marine conditions, with greater phytoplankton productivity, inferred from a higher organic carbon content and C : N ratios in the lower unit. The reduced abundance of Weddell Sea ice-edge bloom species (Chaetoceros resting spores, Fragilariopsis curta and Fragilariopsis cylindrus) and stratified cold-water species (Rhizosolenia antennata) in the upper unit was largely caused by the colder climate. During the cold period, the glacial restriction between theWeddell Sea and the shelf of the northern South Shetland Islands apparently hindered the influx of ice-edge bloom species from the Weddell Sea into the core site. The relative increases in the abundance of Actinocyclus actinochilus and Navicula glaciei, indigenous to the coastal zone of the South Shetland Islands, probably reflects a reduction in the dilution of native species, resulting from the diminished influx of the ice-edge species from the Weddell Sea. We also document the recent reduction of sea-ice cover in the study area in response to recent warming along the Antarctic Peninsula.
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