Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (v112 n15 p4684–4689; doi: 10.1073/pnas.1417130112) / by Sarah E. Moffitt
Anthropogenic climate change is predicted to decrease oceanic oxygen (O2) concentrations, with potentially significant effects on marine ecosystems. Geologically recent episodes of abrupt climatic warming provide opportunities to assess the effects of changing oxygenation on marine communities. Thus far, this knowledge has been largely restricted to investigations using Foraminifera, with little being known about ecosystem-scale responses to abrupt, climate-forced deoxygenation. We here present high-resolution records based on the first comprehensive quantitative analysis, to our knowledge, of changes in marine metazoans (Mollusca, Echinodermata, Arthropoda, and Annelida; >5,400 fossils and trace fossils) in response to the global warming associated with the last glacial to interglacial episode. The molluscan archive is dominated by extremophile taxa, including those containing endosymbiotic sulfur-oxidizing bacteria (Lucinoma aequizonatum) and those that graze on filamentous sulfur-oxidizing benthic bacterial mats (Alia permodesta). This record, from 16,100 to 3,400 y ago, demonstrates that seafloor invertebrate communities are subject to major turnover in response to relatively minor inferred changes in oxygenation (>1.5 to <0.5 mL⋅L−1 [O2]) associated with abrupt (<100 y) warming of the eastern Pacific. The biotic turnover and recovery events within the record expand known rates of marine biological recovery by an order of magnitude, from <100 to >1,000 y, and illustrate the crucial role of climate and oceanographic change in driving long-term successional changes in ocean ecosystems.