Effects of diagenesis on paleoclimate reconstructions from modern and young fossil corals Academic Article uri icon


  • The integrity of coral-based reconstructions of past climate variability depends on a comprehensive knowledge of the effects of post-depositional alteration on coral skeletal geochemistry. Here we combine millimeter-scale and micro-scale coral Sr/Ca data, scanning electron microscopy (SEM) images, and X-ray diffraction with previously published delta(18)O records to investigate the effects of submarine and subaerial diagenesis on paleoclimate reconstructions in modern and young sub-fossil corals from the central tropical Pacific. In a 40-year-old modern coral, we find secondary aragonite is associated with relatively high coral delta(18)O and Sr/Ca, equivalent to sea-surface temperature (SST) artifacts as large as -3 and -5 degrees C, respectively. Secondary aragonite observed in a 350-year-old fossil coral is associated with relatively high delta(18)O and Sr/Ca, resulting in apparent paleo-SST offsets of up to -2 and -4 degrees C, respectively. Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometry (SIMS) analyses of secondary aragonite yield Sr/Ca ratios ranging from 10.78 to 12.39 mmol/mol, significantly higher compared to 9.15 +/- 0.37 mmol/mol measured in more pristine sections of the same fossil coral. Widespread dissolution and secondary calcite observed in a 750-year-old fossil coral is associated with relatively low delta(18)O and Sr/Ca. SIMS Sr/Ca measurements of the secondary calcite (1.96-9.74 mmol/mol) are significantly lower and more variable than Sr/Ca values from more pristine portions of the same fossil coral (8.22 + 0.13 mmol/mol). Our results indicate that while diagenesis has a much larger impact on Sr/Ca-based paleoclimate reconstructions than delta(18)O-based reconstructions at our site, SIMS analyses of relatively pristine skeletal elements in an altered coral may provide robust estimates of Sr/Ca which can be used to derive paleo-SSTs. (C) 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

publication date

  • November 2011