Diatom-bound 15N/14N: New support for enhanced nutrient consumption in the ice age subantarctic

Publication Year


Journal Article
Diatom-bound 15N/14N was used to reconstruct the glacial nutrient status of the Subantarctic Zone in the Southern Ocean. Down-core records from both the Pacific and Indian sectors show δ 15N of 5 to 6%‰ during the Last Glacial Maximum and a decrease, coincident with the glacial termination, to values as low as 2‰. The effect of either diatom assemblage or physiological change on the diatom-bound 15N/14N is unknown and cannot yet be ruled out as a possible explanation for the observed change. However, the consistency between Indian and Pacific sector records and with other paleoceanographic data suggests that the glacial-interglacial difference in diatom-bound 15N/14N was driven by higher consumption of nitrate in the subantarctic surface during the last ice age. Such a change in nutrient consumption may have resulted from atmospheric iron fertilization and/or decreased glacial mixed layer depths associated with sea ice melting. Enhanced nutrient consumption in the glacial subantarctic would have worked to lower the concentration Of CO2 in the ice age atmosphere. It also would have reduced the preformed nutrient content of the low-latitude thermocline, leading to decreases in lowlatitude productivity, suboxia, and denitrification. Copyright 2005 by the American Geophysical Union.