Phosphorus in Cold-Water Corals as a Proxy for Seawater Nutrient Chemistry

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Science  23 Jun 2006:
Vol. 312, Issue 5781, pp. 1788-1791
DOI: 10.1126/science.1125781

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Phosphorus is a key macronutrient being strongly enriched in the deep ocean as a result of continuous export and remineralization of biomass from primary production. We show that phosphorus incorporated within the skeletons of the cosmopolitan cold-water coral Desmophyllum dianthus is directly proportional to the ambient seawater phosphorus concentration and thus may serve as a paleo-oceanographic proxy for variations in ocean productivity as well as changes in the residence times and sources of deep-water masses. The application of this tool to fossil specimens from the Mediterranean reveals phosphorus-enriched bottom waters at the end of the Younger Dryas period.

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