Geochemical evidence for enhanced preservation of organic matter in the oxygen minimum zone of the continental margin of northern California during the Late Pleistocene

Paleoceanography
By: , and 

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Abstract

The present upper water mass of the northeastern Pacific Ocean off California has a well-developed oxygen minimum zone between 600 and 1200 m wherein concentrations of dissolved oxygen are less than 0.5 mL/L. Even at such low concentrations of dissolved oxygen, benthic burrowing organisms are abundant enough to thoroughly bioturbate the surface and near-surface sediments. These macro organisms, together with micro organisms, also consume large quantities of organic carbon produced by large seasonal stocks of plankton in the overlying surface waters, which are supported by high concentrations of nutrients within the California Current upwelling system. In contrast to modern conditions of bioturbation, laminated sediments are preserved in upper Pleistocene sections of cores collected on the continental slope at water depths within the present oxygen minimum zone from at least as far north as the California-Oregon border and as far south as Point Conception. Comparison of sediment components in the laminae with those delivered to sediment traps as pelagic marine “snow” demonstrates that the dark-light lamination couplets are indeed annual (varves). These upper Pleistocene varved sediments contain more abundant lipid-rich “sapropelic” (type II) organic matter than the overlying bioturbated, oxidized Holocene sediments. The baseline of stable carbon isotopic composition of the organic matter in these slope cores does not change with time, indicating that the higher concentrations of type II organic matter in the varved sediments represent better preservation of organic matter rather than any change in the source of organic matter.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Geochemical evidence for enhanced preservation of organic matter in the oxygen minimum zone of the continental margin of northern California during the Late Pleistocene
Series title Paleoceanography
DOI 10.1029/93PA02829
Volume 9
Issue 1
Year Published 1994
Language English
Publisher Wiley
Description 15 p.
First page 47
Last page 61