Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems

Reconstructing past upwelling intensity and the seasonal dynamics of primary productivity along the Peruvian coastline from mollusk shell stable isotopes



[1] We present here a potential new method to evaluate past variations of the mean intensity of Peruvian coastal upwelling and of the seasonal timing of phytoplankton blooms. This method uses a combination of the monthly carbon and oxygen isotopic signals preserved in fossil mollusk shells, and a series of corrections to extract the variations of the dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) δ13C. Based on the analysis of five shell samples (85 shells in total) from the southern Peruvian coast, we suggest that the mean coastal upwelling intensity can be determined from a linear relationship between average values of corrected shell δ13C and δ18O. This new potential proxy would bring additional independent information valuable to interpret paleoproductivity changes reconstructed from marine sediment of the nearby continental shelf. Results obtained on fossil samples from the middle Holocene show an increase in upwelling intensity during this period associated to a spatial reorganization of upwelling centers along the South Peruvian coast. At the seasonal scale, corrected shell δ13C enrichment indicates a phytoplankton bloom. Seasonal timing of phytoplankton blooms can be estimated by the lag with the annual temperature cycle reproduced by shell δ18O monthly variations. The results obtained with two modern shell samples indicate phytoplankton blooms occurring during summer and fall, consistently with in situ productivity observations. Our method relies on revisited assumptions about the influence of temperature and metabolism in mollusk shell δ13C. We further discussed the validity of these assumptions and the potential implications for the interpretation of similar data sets.