Oceanic versus continental influences over the last 7 kyrs from a mid-shelf record in the northern Bay of Biscay (NE Atlantic)

Research areas:
Atlantic subpolar gyre, Holocene, Precipitation regimes, Rapid climate changes, Stable isotopes, Vegetation dynamics, Winter horizontal thermohaline front
  • A. Penaud
  • A. Ganne
  • F. Eynaud
  • C. Lambert
  • P. O. Coste
  • M. Herlédan
  • M. Vidal
  • J. Goslin
  • P. Stéphan
  • G. Charria
  • Y. Pailler
  • Matthieu Durand
  • J. Zumaque
  • Meryem Mojtahid
Quaternary Science Reviews
We discuss paleoenvironments of north-western France over the last 7 kyrs in terms of: i) long-term changes (relative sea-level rise and boreal summer insolation), ii) rapid climate changes (millennial-scale Bond events and multi-decadal regimes of the North Atlantic Oscillation: NAO) and iii) growing human impacts in watersheds. Our study focuses on the CBT-CS11 core, retrieved in the northern Bay of Biscay, with new high-resolution (70 years) palynological data (dinoflagellate cysts and pollen), combined with sedimentological and oxygen stable isotopic records. This multiproxy approach enabled us to gain a better understanding of the influence of varying Middle to Late Holocene climate regimes on marine, coastal and terrestrial ecosystems as well as on human coastal societies. We especially show that the slowdown of the relative sea-level rise, starting at around 5.9 ka BP, led to the stabilization of tidal flats in estuarine environments. Subsequently, increasing river flows to the ocean resulted in a progressive seasonal stratification of the shelf under increasing winter precipitations and establishment of the modern winter thermohaline front at 3.3 ka BP. In addition, within the 4–2 ka BP interval, palynological and sedimentological evidence suggests increasing river discharges in north-western France, in a context of a weakened Atlantic subpolar gyre and recurrent negative “NAO-like” conditions. Finally, we identified a major transition at around 1.2 ka BP (Early Middle-Ages) that appears to be linked to a period of maximal anthropogenic landscape opening and soil erosion, implying stronger primary productivity in coastal surface waters of the studied region.