Articles | Volume 11, issue 4
Research article
20 Feb 2014
Research article |  | 20 Feb 2014

Biogeochemistry of the North Atlantic during oceanic anoxic event 2: role of changes in ocean circulation and phosphorus input

I. Ruvalcaba Baroni, R. P. M. Topper, N. A. G. M. van Helmond, H. Brinkhuis, and C. P. Slomp

Abstract. The geological record provides evidence for the periodic occurrence of water column anoxia and formation of organic-rich deposits in the North Atlantic Ocean during the mid-Cretaceous (hereafter called the proto-North Atlantic). Both changes in primary productivity and oceanic circulation likely played a role in the development of the low-oxygen conditions. Several studies suggest that an increased input of phosphorus from land initiated oceanic anoxic events (OAEs). Other proposed mechanisms invoke a vigorous upwelling system and an ocean circulation pattern that acted as a trap for nutrients from the Pacific Ocean.

Here, we use a detailed biogeochemical box model for the proto-North Atlantic to analyse under what conditions anoxia could have developed during OAE2 (94 Ma). The model explicitly describes the coupled water, carbon, oxygen and phosphorus cycles for the deep basin and continental shelves. In our simulations, we assume the vigorous water circulation from a recent regional ocean model study. Our model results for pre-OAE2 and OAE2 conditions are compared to sediment records of organic carbon and proxies for photic zone euxinia and bottom water redox conditions (e.g. isorenieratane, carbon/phosphorus ratios). Our results show that a strongly elevated input of phosphorus from rivers and the Pacific Ocean relative to pre-OAE2 conditions is a requirement for the widespread development of low oxygen in the proto-North Atlantic during OAE2. Moreover, anoxia in the proto-North Atlantic is shown to be greatly influenced by the oxygen concentration of Pacific bottom waters. In our model, primary productivity increased significantly upon the transition from pre-OAE2 to OAE2 conditions. Our model captures the regional trends in anoxia as deduced from observations, with euxinia spreading to the northern and eastern shelves but with the most intense euxinia occurring along the southern coast. However, anoxia in the central deep basin is difficult to achieve in the model. This suggests that the ocean circulation used in the model may be too vigorous and/or that anoxia in the proto-North Atlantic was less widespread than previously thought.

Final-revised paper