Assessing the applicability of Emiliania huxleyi coccolith morphology as a sea-surface salinity proxy

Fielding, Samuel R., Jens O. Herrle, Jörg Bollmann, Richard H. Worden, David J. S. Montagnes

Limnol. Oceanogr., 54(5), 2009, 1475-1480 | DOI: 10.4319/lo.2009.54.5.1475

ABSTRACT: Culture experiments were used to assess the applicability of Emiliania huxleyi coccolith morphology as a palaeo-sea-surface salinity (SSS) proxy. Coccolith morphology was dependent on salinity over a range reflecting present day marine conditions; both coccolith size and the number of coccolith elements increased linearly with increasing salinity. Using regression analysis, the effect of salinity on coccolith morphology was compared to those previously observed in sediment core-top and plankton data. No significant differences were found between the slopes of these data, suggesting that salinity is the primary control on E. huxleyi coccolith size and element number in the ocean. However, the intercepts of the culture data were significantly higher. A combination of experimental and literature analysis indicated that temperature and nutrients were unlikely to be the causes of this discrepancy. Literature analysis also highlighted that coccolith size data from marginal environments displayed different intercepts to those from the open-ocean data. This suggests that discrete morphotypes exist in these marginal locations. We, therefore, recommend that the original E. huxleyi coccolith morphology palaeo-SSS transfer function requires further evaluation before being routinely applied.

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