Linkage of deep sea rapid acidification process and extinction of benthic foraminifera in the deep sea at the Paleocene/Eocene transition

Hodaka Kawahata, Ritsuo Nomura, Katsumi Matsumoto, Hiroshi Nishi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Ocean Drilling Program Leg 199 Site 1220 provides a continuous sedimentary section across the Paleocene/Eocene (P/E) transition in the carbonate-bearing sediments on 56-57 Ma oceanic crust. The large negative δ13C shift in seawater is likely due to the disintegration of methane hydrate, which is expected to be rapidly changed to carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and well-oxygenated seawater, leading to a reduction in deep-sea pH. A pH decrease was very likely responsible for the emergence of agglutinated foraminiferal fauna as calcareous fauna was eliminated by acidification at the P/E transition at Site 1220. The absence of the more resistant calcareous benthic foraminifera and the presence of the planktonic foraminifera at Site 1220 is interesting and unique, which indicates that calcareous benthic foraminifera suffered greatly from living on the seafloor. Box model calculation demonstrates that, assuming the same mean alkalinity as today, pCO2 must increase from 280ppm to about 410ppm for the calcite undersaturation in the deep ocean and for the oversaturation in the surface ocean during the P/E transition. The calculated increased pCO2 coincides with paleo-botanical evidence. The current global emission rate (~7.3 peta (1015) gC/y) of anthropogenic carbon input is approximately 30 times of the estimate at the P/E transition. The results at the P/E transition give an implication that the deep sea benthic fauna will be threatened in future in combination with ocean acidification, increased sea surface temperature and more stratified surface water.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)301-316
Number of pages16
JournalIsland Arc
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2015 Sep 1


  • Agglutinated foraminifera
  • Benthic foraminifera
  • Carbon cycle
  • Ocean Drilling Program (ODP)
  • Ocean acidification
  • The Paleocene/Eocene (P/E) transition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geology


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