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Keywords:

  • oligocene;
  • benthic foraminifera;
  • diagenesis;
  • recrystallisation;
  • stable isotopes;
  • Integrated Ocean Drilling Program

Abstract

Stable oxygen and carbon isotope (δ18O and δ13C) values measured in foraminiferal calcite are one of the primary tools used in paleoceanography. Diagenetic recrystallization of foraminiferal calcite can act to reset primary isotopic values, but its effects are typically poorly quantified. Here we test the impact of early stage diagenesis on stable isotope records generated from a suite of drill sites in the equatorial Pacific Ocean recovered during Ocean Drilling Program Leg 199 and Integrated Ocean Drilling Program Expedition 320. Our selected sites form paleowater and burial depth transects, with excellent stratigraphic control allowing us to confidently correlate our records. We observe large intersite differences in the preservation state of benthic foraminiferal calcite, implying very different recrystallization histories, but negligible intersite offsets in benthic δ18O and δ13C values. We infer that diagenetic alteration of benthic foraminiferal calcite (in sedimentary oozes) must predominantly occur at shallow burial depths (<100 m) where offsets in both the temperature and isotopic composition of waters in which the foraminifera calcified and pore waters in which diagenesis occurs are small. Our results suggest that even extensive recrystallization of benthic foraminiferal calcite results in minimal shifts from primary δ18O and δ13C values. This finding supports the long-held suspicion that diagenetic alteration of foraminiferal calcite is less problematic in benthic than in planktic foraminifera and that in deep-sea sediments routinely employed for paleoceanographic studies benthic foraminifera are robust recorders of stable isotope values in the fossil record.