The early Matuyama Diatom Maximum off SW Africa: a conceptual model

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An important discovery during Ocean Drilling Program Leg 175, when investigating the record of upwelling off Namibia, was the finding of a distinct Late Pliocene diatom maximum spanning the lower half of the Matuyama reversed polarity chron (MDM, Matuyama Diatom Maximum) and centered around 2.6–2.0 Ma. This maximum was observed at all sites off southwestern Africa between 20°S and 30°S, and is most strongly represented in sediments of Site 1084, off Lüderitz, Namibia. The MDM is characterized by high biogenic opal content, high numbers of diatom valves, and a diatom flora rich in Southern Ocean representatives (with Thalassiothrix antarctica forming diatom mats) as well as coastal upwelling components. Before MDM time, diatoms are rare until ca. 3.6 Ma. After the MDM, in the Pleistocene, the composition of the diatom flora points to increased importance of coastal upwelling toward the present, but is accompanied by a general decrease in opal and diatom deposition. Here we present a simple conceptual model as a first step in formalizing a possible forcing mechanism responsible for the record of opal deposition in the upwelling system off Namibia. The model takes into account Southern Ocean oceanography, and a link with deepwater circulation and deepwater nutrient chemistry which, in turn, are coupled to the evolution of North Atlantic Deep Water (NADW). The model proposes that between the MDM and the Mid-Pleistocene climate revolution, opal deposition off Namibia is not directly tied to glacial–interglacial fluctuations (as seen in the global δ18O record), but that, instead, a strong deepwater link exists with increased NADW production (as seen in the deepwater δ13C record) accounting for higher supply of silicate to the thermocline waters that feed the upwelling process. The opal record of Site 1084 shows affinity to eccentricity on the 400-kyr scale but not for the 100-kyr scale. This points toward long-term geologic processes for delivery of silica to the ocean. Keywords: marine silicate budget, diatom mats, Neogene upwelling, Namibian upwelling system, Walvis Paradox, Matuyama Diatom Maximum, Benguela Current.

Publication Title:

Marine Geology

Item Type:
Journal Article

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