Articles | Volume 7, issue 1
04 Jan 2010
 | 04 Jan 2010

Increase in water column denitrification during the last deglaciation: the influence of oxygen demand in the eastern equatorial Pacific

P. Martinez and R. S. Robinson

Abstract. Here we present organic export production and nitrogen isotope results spanning the last 30 000 years from a core recovered off Costa Rica (Ocean Drilling Program (ODP) Site 1242) on the leading edge of the oxygen minimum zone of the Eastern Tropical North Pacific. Marine export production reveals glacial-interglacial variations with low organic matter (total organic carbon and total nitrogen) contents during warm intervals, twice more during cold episodes and double peaked maximum during the deglaciation, between ~15.5–18.5 and 11–13 ka B.P. When this new export production record is compared with four nearby cores from within the Eastern Pacific along the Equatorial divergence, good agreement between all the cores is observed. The major feature is a maximum of export during the early deglaciation. As for export production, water-column denitrification, represented by sedimentary δ15N records, along the Eastern tropical North and South Pacific between 15° N and 36° S is also coherent over the last deglaciation. Each of the nitrogen isotope profiles indicate that denitrification increased abruptly at 19 ka B.P to a maximum during the early deglaciation, confirming a typical Antarctic timing. It is proposed that the increase in export production and then in subsurface oxygen demand lead to an intensification of water-column denitrification within the oxygen minimum zones in the easternmost Pacific at the time of the last deglaciation. The triggering mechanism would have been primarily linked to an increase in preformed nutrients contents feeding the Equatorial Undercurrent driven by the resumption of overturning in the Southern Ocean and the return of nutrients from the deep ocean to the sea-surface. An increase in equatorial wind-driven upwelling of sub-surface nutrient-rich waters could have played the role of an amplifier.

Final-revised paper