Palaeoceanographic changes in Hornsund Fjord (Spitsbergen, Svalbard) over the last millennium: new insights from ancient DNA

  • publication
  • 13-08-2015

J. Pawłowska (1), M. Zajączkowski (1), M. Łącka (1), F. Lejzerowicz (2), P. Esling (2,3), and J. Pawlowski (2).

This paper presents the reconstruction of climate-driven environmental changes of the last millennium from Hornsund Fjord (Svalbard) based on sedimentological and micropalaeontological records. Our palaeo-investigation was supported by the analysis of 5 foraminiferal ancient DNA (aDNA), focusing on non-fossilised monothalamous species. The main climatic fluctuations over the last millennium were the Medieval Warm Period (MWP, 1000–1600 AD), the Little Ice Age (LIA, 1600–1900 AD), and the Modern Warming (MW, 1900 AD–present). Our study indicated that environmental conditions in Hornsund during the MWP and the early LIA (before ∼ 1800 AD) were relatively 10 stable, resulting from the distant position of glaciers. The beginning of the LIA (∼ 1600 AD) was poorly evidenced by the micropalaeontological record, but well marked in the aDNA data, by an increased proportion of monothalamous foraminifera, especially Bathysiphon sp. The early LIA (∼ 1600–∼ 1800 AD) was marked by the increase in abundance of sequences of Hippocrepinella hirudinea and Cedhagenia saltatus. In the 15 late LIA (after ∼ 1800 AD), conditions in the fjord became glacier-proximal, characterised by increased meltwater outflows, high sedimentation and a high calving rate. This coincided with an increase in the percentages of sequences of Micrometula sp. and Vellaria pellucidus. During the MW, major glaciers fronts retreated rapidly to the inner bays, limiting the iceberg discharge to the fjord centre and causing the shift in the 20 foraminiferal community reflected in both fossil and aDNA records. Palaeoceanographic changes in the Hornsund Fjord over the last millennium were driven mainly by the inflow of shelf-originated water masses and glaciers’ activity. However, the environmental changes were poorly evidenced in the micropalaeontological record, but well documented in our aDNA data. We considerably increased the number 25 of potential proxy species by including monothalamous foraminifera in the palaeoecological studies.

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