The Middle Eocene Climatic Optimum (MECO) is an ~500 kyr interval of pronounced global warming from which the climate system recovered in <50 kyr. The deep-sea sedimentary record can provide valuable insight on the marine ecosystem response to this protracted global warming event and consequently on the ecological changes during this time. Here we present new benthic foraminiferal assemblage data from Ocean Drilling Program Site 1051 in the subtropical North Atlantic, spanning the MECO and post-MECO interval (41.1 to 39.5 Ma). We find little change in the species composition of benthic foraminiferal assemblages during the studied interval, suggesting that the rate of environmental change was gradual enough that these organisms were able to adapt. However, we identify two transient intervals associated with peak warming (higher-productivity interval (HPI)-1; 40.07-39.96 Ma) and shortly after the MECO (HPI-2; 39.68-39.55 Ma), where benthic foraminiferal accumulation rates increase by an order of magnitude. These HPIs at Site 1051 appear to coincide with intervals of strengthened productivity in the Tethys, Southern Ocean, and South Atlantic, and we suggest that an intensified hydrological cycle during the climatic warmth of the MECO was responsible for eutrophication of marine shelf and slope environments.
Bibliographical noteDate of Acceptance: 06/07/2015
- benthic foraminifera
- biological productivity
- Middle Eocene Climatic Optimum
- North Atlantic