A Cenozoic record of the equatorial Pacific carbonate compensation depth

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Atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations and climate are regulated on geological timescales by the balance between carbon input from volcanic and metamorphic outgassing and its removal by weathering feedbacks; these feedbacks involve the erosion of silicate rocks and organic-carbon-bearing rocks. The integrated effect of these processes is reflected in the calcium carbonate compensation depth, which is the oceanic depth at which calcium carbonate is dissolved. Here we present a carbonate accumulation record that covers the past 53 million years from a depth transect in the equatorial Pacific Ocean. The carbonate compensation depth tracks long-term ocean cooling, deepening from 3.0–3.5 kilometres during the early Cenozoic (approximately 55 million years ago) to 4.6 kilometres at present, consistent with an overall Cenozoic increase in weathering. We find large superimposed fluctuations in carbonate compensation depth during the middle and late Eocene. Using Earth system models, we identify changes in weathering and the mode of organic-carbon delivery as two key processes to explain these large-scale Eocene fluctuations of the carbonate compensation depth.

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Figure 1: Illustration of the position of the CCD and lysocline, and their relationship to ocean bathymetry, carbonate accumulation rate and CaCO 3 content.
Figure 2: CCD and carbonate accumulation rate reconstruction compared with published benthic foraminiferal δ18O and δ13C values and atmospheric CO2.
Figure 3: CCD predicted by the GENIE steady state model.


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This research used samples and data provided by IODP. We thank the masters and crew of IODP Expeditions 320 and 321. H.P. acknowledges support from the Philip Leverhulme Prize, the BIK-F, and NERC grants NE/H000089/1, NE/H020136/1, NE/G003270/1, NE/F003641/1, NE/H022554/1 and NE/I006168/1. We acknowledge the use of the IRIDIS High Performance Computing Facility, and associated support services at the University of Southampton, in the completion of this work. We thank M. Palmer and D. Teagle for discussions. E.J.R. is a Visiting Fellow at the Research School of Earth Sciences, The Australian National University.

Author information

H.P. and A.R. wrote the manuscript. H.P., A.R., C.O.J.C. and R.E.Z. contributed to the modelling work. All authors contributed to data analysis, interpretation, manuscript editing or discussions.

Correspondence to Heiko Pälike.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Supplementary Information

This file contains Supplementary Text, Supplementary Figures 1-14 and Supplementary References. (PDF 1104 kb)

Supplementary Data

This file contains Supplementary Table 1, which contains all data underlying the CCD reconstruction as well as the main CCD history. (XLS 1117 kb)

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Pälike, H., Lyle, M., Nishi, H. et al. A Cenozoic record of the equatorial Pacific carbonate compensation depth. Nature 488, 609–614 (2012) doi:10.1038/nature11360

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