Abrupt changes of intermediate-water oxygen in the northwestern Pacific during the last 27 kyr

Research paper by Yui Ishizaki, Ken’ichi Ohkushi, Takashi Ito, Hodaka Kawahata

Indexed on: 15 Nov '08Published on: 15 Nov '08Published in: Geo-Marine Letters


An oxygen minimum zone (OMZ) currently exists at intermediate water depths on the northern Japanese margin in the northwestern Pacific. The OMZ results largely from a combination of high surface–water productivity and poor ventilation of intermediate waters. We investigated the late Quaternary history (last 27 kyr) of the intensity of this OMZ using changes in benthic foraminiferal carbon isotopes and assemblages in a sediment core taken on the continental slope off Shimokita Peninsula, northern Japan, at a water depth of 975 m. The core was located well within the region of the present-day OMZ and high surface–water productivity. The benthic foraminiferal δ13C values, which indicate millennial-scale fluctuations of nutrient contents at the sediment–water interface, were 0.48‰ lower during the last glacial maximum (LGM) than during the late Holocene. These results do not indicate the formation of glacial intermediate waters of subarctic Pacific origin, but rather the large contribution of high-nutrient water masses such as the Antarctic Intermediate Water, implying that the regional circulation pattern during the LGM was similar to that of modern times. Benthic foraminiferal assemblages underwent major changes in response to changes in dissolved oxygen concentrations in ocean floor sediments. The lowest oxygen and highest nutrient conditions, marked by dysoxic taxa and negative values of benthic foraminiferal δ13C, occurred during the Bølling/Allerød (B/A) and Pre-Boreal warming events. Dysoxic conditions in this region during these intervals were possibly caused by high surface–water productivity at times of reduced intermediate–water ventilation in the northwestern Pacific. The benthic assemblages show dysoxic events on approx. 100- to 200-year cycles during the B/A, reflecting centennial-scale productivity changes related to freshwater cycles and surface–water circulation in the North Pacific.