The abundance and chemistry of the planktonic foraminifera Neogloboquadrina pachyderma (sinistral coiling) have long been used as tools for monitoring polar surface ocean changes and for correlating these changes to atmospheric and thermohaline circulation fluctuations. However, due to its remote habitat, very little is known about how modern N. pachyderma (s.) respond to changing environmental conditions in the polar seas. Modern samples of N. pachyderma (s.) from the Northeast Water Polynya provide a means for studying how environmental conditions affect the vertical distribution and chemistry of this species. Highest abundances of N. pachyderma (s.) were associated with the chlorophyll maximum in the surface 20-80 m, where they are exploiting their primary food source. Evidence suggests that the addition of a calcite crust modifies the calcite tests of some N. pachyderma (s.) between 50 and 200 m, increasing shell density and modifying shell chemistry. The shell mass of encrusted forms is 34 times greater than the nonencrusted forms between 50 and 200 m. The oxygen isotope composition of N. pachyderma (s.) shells increase by 1.5‰ in response to local water column gradients. The δ13C values of N. pachyderma (s.) are basically invariant with depth in this region, are consistently 1.0‰ depleted in comparison with the δ13C for equilibrium calcite, and remain basically constant during the shell-thickening process. Mass balance calculations suggest that encrustation occurs at all depths, but abundance counts suggest that the process occurs mostly at the depth of the main pycnocline. Sediment fluxes of N. pachyderma (s.) occur during a 2-week bloom event and decrease to almost zero below complete ice cover. The decoupling of the processes controlling abundances and shell chemistry explain the discrepancies between transfer function and isotopically derived paleotemperature estimates of surface conditions, in some oceanic settings. The ability of δ18O to record surface ocean conditions will depend on vertical water column gradients, as evidenced by the differences in core-top calibrations between the North and South Atlantic.
ASJC Scopus subject areas