Bioturbation artifacts in zero-age sediments

TitleBioturbation artifacts in zero-age sediments
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2009
AuthorsKeigwin, LD, Guilderson, TP

Most seafloor sediments are dated with radiocarbon, and the sediment is assumed to be zero-age (modern) when the signal of atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons is present (Fraction modern (Fm) > 1). Using a simple mass balance, we show that even with Fm > 1, half of the planktonic foraminifera at the seafloor can be centuries old, because of bioturbation. This calculation, and data from four core sites in the western North Atlantic indicate that, first, during some part of the Little Ice Age (LIA) there may have been more Antarctic Bottom Water than today in the deep western North Atlantic. Alternatively, bioturbation may have introduced much older benthic foraminifera into surface sediments. Second, paleo-based warming of Sargasso Sea surface waters since the LIA must lag the actual warming because of bioturbation of older and colder foraminifera.