Journal cover Journal topic
Biogeosciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
Journal topic
Volume 15, issue 19 | Copyright
Biogeosciences, 15, 5745-5759, 2018
https://doi.org/10.5194/bg-15-5745-2018
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 01 Oct 2018

Research article | 01 Oct 2018

Effects of light and temperature on Mg uptake, growth, and calcification in the proxy climate archive Clathromorphum compactum

Siobhan Williams1, Walter Adey2, Jochen Halfar1, Andreas Kronz3, Patrick Gagnon4, David Bélanger4, and Merinda Nash2 Siobhan Williams et al.
  • 1Department of Chemical and Physical Sciences, University of Toronto at Mississauga, Mississauga, L5L 1C6, Canada
  • 2Department of Botany, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC 20560, USA
  • 3Geowissenschaftliches Zentrum, Universität Göttingen, 37077 Göttingen, Germany
  • 4Ocean Sciences Centre, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John's, A1C 5S7, Canada

Abstract. The shallow-marine benthic coralline alga Clathromorphum compactum is an important annual- to sub-annual-resolution archive of Arctic and subarctic environmental conditions, allowing reconstructions going back >600 years. Both Mg content, in the high-Mg calcitic cell walls, and annual algal growth increments have been used as a proxy for past temperatures and sea ice conditions. The process of calcification in coralline algae has been debated widely, with no definitive conclusion about the role of light and photosynthesis in growth and calcification. Light received by algal specimens can vary with latitude, water depth, sea ice conditions, water turbidity, and shading. Furthermore, field calibration studies of Clathromorphum sp. have yielded geographically disparate correlations between MgCO3 and sea surface temperature. The influence of other environmental controls, such as light, on Mg uptake and calcification has received little attention. We present results from an 11-month mesocosm experiment in which 123 wild-collected C. compactum specimens were grown in conditions simulating their natural habitat. Specimens grown for periods of 1 and 2 months in complete darkness show that the typical complex of anatomy and cell wall calcification develops in new tissue without the presence of light, demonstrating that calcification is metabolically driven and not a side effect of photosynthesis. Also, we show that both light and temperature significantly affect MgCO3 in C. compactum cell walls. For specimens grown at low temperature (2°C), the effects of light are smaller, with a 1.4mol% MgCO3 increase from low-light (mean = 17lx) to high-light conditions (mean = 450lx). At higher (10°C) temperature there was a 1.8mol% MgCO3 increase from low to high light. It is therefore concluded that site- and possibly specimen-specific temperature calibrations must be applied, to account for effects of light when generating Clathromorphum-derived temperature calibrations.

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