Ecosystem Function after the K/Pg Extinction: Decoupling of Marine Carbon Pump and Diversity

Heather Birch*, Daniela N Schmidt, Andy J Ridgwell, Helen Katherine Coxall, Dick Croon

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
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The ocean biological pump is the mechanism by which carbon and nutrients are transported to depth. As such, the biological pump is critical in the partitioning of carbon dioxide between the ocean and atmosphere, and the rate at which that carbon can be sequestered through burial in marine sediments. How the structure and function of planktic ecosystems in the ocean governs the strength and efficiency of the biological pump and its resilience to disruption are poorly understood. The aftermath of the impact at the Cretaceous/Palaeogene (K/Pg) boundary provides an ideal opportunity to address these questions as both the biological pump and marine plankton size and diversity were fundamentally disrupted. The excellent fossil record of planktic foraminifera as indicators of pelagic-biotic recovery combined with carbon isotope records tracing biological pump behaviour, show that the recovery of ecological traits (diversity, size, photosymbiosis) occurred much later (~4.3m.y) than biological pump recovery (~1.8m.y.). We interpret this decoupling of diversity and the biological pump as an indication that ecosystem function had sufficiently recovered to drive an effective biological pump, at least regionally in the South Atlantic.
Original languageEnglish
Article number20210863
Number of pages7
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society of Edinburgh: Section B Biology
Issue number1953
Early online date23 Jun 2021
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jun 2021

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© 2021 The Author(s).


  • K/Pg
  • biological pump
  • planktonic foraminifera
  • ecosystem function
  • ecology


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