High epibenthic foraminiferal δ13C in the Recent deep Arctic Ocean: Implications for ventilation and brine release during stadials


  • Andreas Mackensen

    Corresponding author
    1. Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research, Bremerhaven, Germany
    • Corresponding author: A. Mackensen, Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research, Am Alten Hafen 26, 27568 Bremerhaven, Germany. (

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Low planktic and benthic δ18O and δ13C values in sediments from the Nordic seas of cold stadials of the last glaciation have been attributed to brines, formed similar to modern ones in the Arctic Ocean. To expand on the carbon isotopes of this hypothesis, I investigated benthic δ13C from the modern Arctic Ocean. I show that mean δ13C values of live epibenthic foraminifera from the deep Arctic basins are higher than mean δ13C values of upper slope epibenthic foraminifera. This agrees with mean high δ13C values of dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) in Arctic Bottom Water (ABW), which are higher than mean δ13CDIC values from shallower water masses of mainly Atlantic origin. However, adjustments for oceanic 13C Suess depletion raise subsurface and intermediate water δ13CDIC values over ABW δ13CDIC ones. Accordingly, during preindustrial Holocene times, the δ13CDIC of ABW was as high or even higher than today but lower than the δ13CDIC of younger subsurface and intermediate water. If brine-enriched water significantly ventilated ABW, brines should have had high δ13CDIC values. Analogously, high-δ13CDIC brines may have been formed in the Nordic seas during warm interstadials. During cold stadials, when most of the Arctic Ocean was perennially sea ice covered, a cessation of high-δ13CDIC brine rejection may have lowered δ13CDIC values of ABW, and ultimately the δ13CDIC in Nordic seas intermediate and deep water. So in contrast to the idea of enhanced brine formation during cold stadials, the results of this investigation imply that a cessation of brine rejection would be more likely.