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Paleoecological evidence for decadal increase in phytoplankton biomass off northwestern Australia in response to climate change

19 Jan 2018


Ocean warming can modify the phytoplankton biomass on decadal scales. Significant increases in sea surface temperature (SST) and rainfall in the northwest of Australia over recent decades are attributed to climate change. Here, we used four biomarker proxies (TEX86 index, long-chain n-alkanes, brassicasterol, and dinosterol) to reconstruct approximately 60-year variations of SST, terrestrial input, and diatom and dinoflagellate biomass in the coastal waters of the remote Kimberley region. The results showed that the most significant increases in SST and terrestrial input occurred since 1997, accompanied by an abrupt increase in diatom and dinoflagellate biomasses. Compared with the results before 1997, the average temperature during 1997–2011 increased approximately 1°C, rainfall increased 248.2 mm, brassicasterol and dinosterol contents increased 8.5 and 1.7 times. Principal component analysis indicated that the warming SST played a more important role in the phytoplankton increase than increased rainfall and river discharge.

An abrupt increase in phytoplankton occurred since the 1990s, accompanied by significant increases in temperature and terrestrial input. Warming temperature played a more important role for the decadal phytoplankton increase than rainfall. Applicability of TEX86H biomarker proxy for SST off northwestern Australia was validated.

Click here to view the full article which appeared in Ecology and Evolution