High-Resolution Synchrotron Radiation Imaging of Trace Metal Elemental Concentrations in Porites Coral

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Mary Cirino, Stanford University, Stanford, CA, United States, Robert B Dunbar, Stanford University, School of Earth Sciences, Los Altos Hills, CA, United States, Neil Tangri, Stanford Earth Sciences, Stanford, CA, United States and Apurva Mehta, SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, Menlo Park, CA, United States
We investigated the use of synchrotron radiation for elemental imaging within the skeleton of a Porites coral from American Samoa to explore the fine-scale structure of strontium to calcium (Sr/Ca) variability. The use of a synchrotron for coral paleoclimate analysis is relatively new. The method provides a high resolution, two-dimensional elemental map of a coral surface. The aragonitic skeleton of Porites sp. colonies has been widely used for paleoclimate reconstruction as the oxygen isotope ratio (δ18O) signal varies with both sea surface temperature (SST) and sea surface salinity (SSS). Sr/Ca has been used in previous studies in conjunction with δ18O to deconvolve SST from SSS, as Sr/Ca in the coral skeleton varies with SST, but not SSS. However, recent studies suggest that in some cases Sr/Ca variability in coral does not reliably reflect changes in SST. We sought to address this puzzle by investigating Sr/Ca variability in Porites corals at a very fine spatial scale while also demonstrating the suitability of the synchrotron as a coral analysis tool. We also considered Sr/Ca variability as it pertains to the coral’s structural elements. The Stanford Linear Accelerator Center synchrotron station generates collimated x-rays in the energy range of 4500-45000 eV with beam diameters as small as 20 μm. Synchrotron imaging allows faster and higher-resolution Sr/Ca analysis than does inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS). It also is capable of mapping spatial distributions of many elements, which aids in the development of a multiproxy approach to paleoclimate reconstruction. Imaging and analysis of the Porites coral using synchrotron radiation revealed an intricate sub-seasonal Sr/Ca signal, possibly correlating to a sub-monthly resolution. This signal, which seems unrelated to SST, dominates the annual signal.