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Organic Carbon Delta C13 Values from Quarternary Marine Sequences in the Gulf of Mexico: A Reflection of Paleotemperature Changes
M. A. Rogers (1), C. B. Koons
Variations in stable carbon isotope ratio values on combustible organic matter in Gulf of Mexico sediments correlate with Pleistocene warm and cold climates. Warm stages are characterized by C13/C12 isotopic ratios of -20 to -22, compared to the PDB standard, while colder stages are characterized by -24 to -26.
Piston core samples from the present bottom show similar C13 values (-20 to -22) characterizing the warm post-glacial period regardless of bathymetric environment (shelf, slope, or abyss) except where relict Pleistocene sediments crop out (-24 to -26). Sedimentation patterns and palcontology confirm the relict nature of the latter. Samples from 1000 ft. cores on the present slope represent post-Pliocene sequences; C13 values alternate from more positive to more negative. These alternations from about -21 to -25 coincide with the glacial-interglacial stages which are independently indentified by planktonic foraminifera.
Interpretations of the data lead to the conclusion that the principal reason for the observed correlations is variation of water temperatures in the photosynthetic zone during warm, interglacial climates and during cooler, glacial climates. There are other alternative processes which could affect the data, one of which, the relative contribution of terrestrially-derived organic matter versus marine-derived organic matter, would change the C13 values in the same relative direction as the water temperature variation. Thus, it is not possible to unequivocally interpret the contributions of different processes for individual samples.
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