Oxygenation variability in Mejillones Bay, off northern Chile, during the last two centuries
Abstract. The Peru Chile Current ecosystem is characterized by high biological productivity and important fisheries. Although this system is likely to be severely affected by climate change, its response to current global warming is still uncertain. In this paper, we analyze 10–166 year-old sediments in two cores collected from Mejillones Bay, an anoxic sedimentary setting favorable for the preservation of proxies. Based on a 166-year chronology, we used proxies of bottom-water oxygenation (Mo, V, S, and the (lycopane + n−C35)/n−C31 ratio) and surface water productivity (biogenic opal, counts of diatom valves, biogenic Ba, organic carbon, and chlorins) to reconstruct environmental variations in Mejillones Bay. During the last two centuries, a shift took place in the coastal marine ecosystem of Bahia Mejillones at decadal scales. This shift was characterized by intense ENSO-like activity, large-scale fluctuations in biological export productivity and bottom water oxygenation, and increased eolian activity (inferred from Ti/Al and Zr/Al). This short-term variability was accompanied by a gradual increase of sulfidic conditions that has intensified since the early 1960s.