Surviving rapid climate change in the deep sea during the Paleogene hyperthermals

Laura C. Foster*, Daniela N. Schmidt, Ellen Thomas, Sandra Arndt, Andy Ridgwell

*Corresponding author for this work

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

39 Citations (Scopus)
458 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Predicting the impact of ongoing anthropogenic CO2 emissions on calcifying marine organisms is complex, owing to the synergy between direct changes (acidification) and indirect changes through climate change (e.g., warming, changes in ocean circulation, and deoxygenation). Laboratory experiments, particularly on longer-lived organisms, tend to be too short to reveal the potential of organisms to acclimatize, adapt, or evolve and usually do not incorporate multiple stressors. We studied two examples of rapid carbon release in the geological record, Eocene Thermal Maximum 2 (similar to 53.2 Ma) and the Paleocene Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM, similar to 55.5 Ma), the best analogs over the last 65 Ma for future ocean acidification related to high atmospheric CO2 levels. We use benthic foraminifers, which suffered severe extinction during the PETM, as a model group. Using synchrotron radiation X-ray tomographic microscopy, we reconstruct the calcification response of survivor species and find, contrary to expectations, that calcification significantly increased during the PETM. In contrast, there was no significant response to the smaller Eocene Thermal Maximum 2, which was associated with a minor change in diversity only. These observations suggest that there is a response threshold for extinction and calcification response, while highlighting the utility of the geological record in helping constrain the sensitivity of biotic response to environmental change.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9273-9276
Number of pages4
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Volume110
Issue number23
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 4 Jun 2013

Keywords

  • marine calcifiers
  • greenhouse gases
  • ecosystem stress response
  • EOCENE THERMAL MAXIMUM
  • BENTHIC FORAMINIFERA
  • PALEOCENE
  • OCEAN
  • EXTINCTION
  • CALCIFICATION
  • ACIDIFICATION
  • TEMPERATURE
  • IMPACT
  • FUTURE

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