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Millennial-scale plankton regime shifts in the subtropical North Pacific Ocean

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Science  26 Nov 2015:
aaa9942
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaa9942

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Abstract

Climate change is predicted to alter marine phytoplankton communities and affect productivity, biogeochemistry, and the efficacy of the biological pump. We reconstructed high-resolution records of changing plankton community composition in the North Pacific Ocean over the past millennium. Amino acid–specific δ13C records preserved in long-lived deep-sea corals revealed three major plankton regimes corresponding to northern hemisphere climate periods. Non-N2 fixing cyanobacteria dominated during the Medieval Climate Anomaly (950-1250C.E.) before giving way to a new regime where eukaryotic microalgae contributed nearly half of export production during the Little Ice Age (~1400-1850C.E.). The third regime, unprecedented in the last millennium, began in the industrial era and is supported by increasing N2-fixing cyanobacterial production. This picoplankton community shift may provide a negative feedback to rising atmospheric CO2.

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