Constructing an Eocene Marine Ecosystem Sensitivity Scale

Monday, 15 December 2014: 3:10 PM
Simon D'haenens1,2, Andre Bornemann3,4, Robert P Speijer5 and Pincelli M Hull2, (1)KU Leuven, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Dover, NH, United States, (2)Yale University, Department of Geology and Geophysics, New Haven, CT, United States, (3)BGR Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources, Hannover, Germany, (4)University of Leipzig, Institut für Geophysik und Geologie, Leipzig, Germany, (5)KU Leuven, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Leuven, Belgium
A key question in the face of current global environmental change is how marine ecosystems will respond and evolve in the future. To answer this, we first need to understand the relationship between environmental and ecosystem change – i.e., the ecosystem sensitivity. Addressing this question requires understanding of how biota respond to (a succession of) sudden environmental perturbations of varying sizes and durations in varying background conditions (i.e., climatic, oceanographic, biotic).

Here, we compare new and published data from the Early to Middle Eocene greenhouse world to understand the sensitivity of marine ecosystems to background environmental change and hyperthermal events. This work focuses on the early Paleogene, because it is considered to be a good analog for a future high CO2 world. Newly generated high-resolution multiproxy datasets based on northern Atlantic DSDP Leg 48 and IODP Leg 342 material will allow us to compare the marine ecosystem responses (including bentho-pelagic systems) to abiotic drivers across climatic disruptions of differing magnitude.

Initial results of a benthic foraminiferal community comparison including the PETM and ETM2 hyperthermals in the northeastern Atlantic DSDP sites 401 and 5501 suggest that benthic ecosystem sensitivity may actually be non-linearly linked to background climate states as reflected by a range of geochemical proxies (XRF, TOC, CaCO3, grain sizes, XRD clay mineralogy and foraminiferal δ18O, δ13C, Mg/Ca)2,3, in contrast to planktic communities4. Testing the type of scaling across different taxa, communities, initial background conditions and time scales may be the first big step to disentangle the often synergistic effects of environmental change on ecosystems5.


1D’haenens et al., 2012, in prep.

2Bornemann et al., 2014, EPSL

3D’haenens et al., 2014, PA

4Gibbs et al., 2012, Biogeosc.

5 Norris et al., 2013, Science