Implications of coral reef buildup for the controls on atmospheric CO2 since the Last Glacial Maximum

We examine the effect on atmospheric CO2 of the occurrence of increased shallow water carbonate deposition and regrowth of the terrestrial biosphere following the last glacial. We find that contrary to recent speculations that changes in terrestrial carbon storage were primarily responsible for the observed similar to20 ppmv late Holocene CO2 rise, a more likely explanation is coral reef buildup and other forms of shallow water carbonate deposition during this time. The importance of a responsive terrestrial carbon reservoir may instead be as a negative feedback restricting the rate of CO2 rise possible in the early stages of the deglacial transition. This separation in time of the primary impacts of regrowth of the terrestrial biosphere and increased shallow water carbonate deposition explains the occurrence of an early Holocene carbonate preservation event observed in deep-sea sediments. We demonstrate that their combined influence is also consistent with available proxy estimates of deep ocean carbonate ion concentration changes over the last 21 kyr. Accounting for the processes that act on the carbonate chemistry of the ocean as a whole then allows us to place strong constraints on the nature of the remaining processes that must be operating at the deglacial transition. By subtracting the net CO2 effect of coral reef buildup and terrestrial biosphere regrowth from recent high-resolution ice core data, we highlight two periods, from 17.0 to 13.8 kyr and 12.3 to 11.2 kyr BP characterized by sustained rapid rates of CO2 increase (> 12 ppmv kyr(-1)). Because these periods are coincident with Southern Hemisphere "deglaciation,'' we argue that changes in the biogeochemical properties of the Southern Ocean surface are the most likely cause.

Published in:
Paleoceanography, 18, 4, 1083

 Record created 2008-02-22, last modified 2018-01-28

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