From glacial times to late Holocene: Benthic foraminiferal assemblages from cold water coral habitats off northwest Scotland

Research areas:
Benthic foraminifera, Cold-water corals, Epifauna, Infauna, NE Atlantic, Wyville Thomson Ridge
Marine Geology
Benthic foraminiferal assemblage data have been derived from a marine sediment core collected in a cold-water coral (CWC) site off northwest Scotland (near the Wyville Thomson Ridge - WTR). The record covers the last glacial period to the late Holocene. Our reconstructions enable to better constrain the paleoenvironmental changes that took place in the study area since the last glacial time and define the environmental conditions that allowed the onset, formation and decline of CWCs in the area. The sedimentary record was characterized by three distinct foraminiferal assemblages, dominant during the pre-coral time interval (i and ii) and the coral period (iii): (i) the “Glacial” assemblage ({\textgreater}13 cal ka BP) was characterized by the dominance of Cibicides refulgens and Discanomalina coronata. Low foraminiferal densities and diversities indicated unfavorable ecological conditions (i.e., low temperature and food availability, coarse substrate) that were most likely related to the extended British Ice Sheet; (ii) the “Deglacial-Early Holocene” assemblage ({\textasciitilde}13–9 cal ka BP) was characterized by the cassidulinids-Lobatula lobatula association, indicating a progressive increase of organic matter content and influx of warm and saline North Atlantic surface waters. We hypothesize that these were the main environmental factors that thereafter allowed the settlement of CWCs in the WTR area around 9 cal ka BP; (iii) the “Holocene” ({\textless}9 cal ka BP) assemblage was characterized by the cohabitation of diverse epifaunal species (e.g., Rosalina globularis) present when CWCs were highly abundant, and infaunal species (e.g., Trifarina angulosa) when corals were less frequent. The periods recording high presence of T. angulosa after 9 ka cal BP were interpreted as indicating a higher contribution of Eastern North Atlantic Waters during periods of retracted Subpolar Gyre (SPG), affecting probably the efficiency of food export to the seafloor.