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Peter Stassen, Etienne Steurbaut and Robert P. Speijer (2012)

Sensitivity of shallow marine benthic communities to global warming: records of early Eocene hyperthermals as deep-time analogues

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Since the discovery of the Paleocene-Eocene thermal maximum, plenty biotic and geochemical information has become available to quantify the biotic impact of this temperature anomaly (5-6 °C warming). Although the exact trigger is still under debate, there seems to be an underlying cyclic mechanism that created a suite of succeeding younger Eocene global warming events (Eocene thermal maximum 2 and 3, respectively 3 and 2 °C warming), offering a range of temperature anomalies. The study of these dynamic climate systems helps us to understand the biotic impact of ongoing global warming and assess critical temperature rises. We propose a study of shallow marine sequences in the northern hemisphere, ranging from terrigenous settings to the slope of a carbonate platform, with special attention to the biotic signature of early Eocene hyperthermals. The combination of biotic proxies, mainly quantitative benthic foraminiferal studies (supplemented with planktic foraminiferal and nannoplankton data) and isotope records (δ13C, δ18O) of pelagic and benthic species will help to understand the impact of global warming events on shelf ecosystems at different paleo-latitudes and sedimentary regimes. The selected sites will contribute to 1) documenting the effects on benthic communities, assessing 2) the critical environmental thresholds, 3) amplitudes and rates of biotic changes, 4) forcing mechanisms and 5) determine whether the biotic turnovers were only transient or included genuine evolutionary phenomena.
Application Project Postdoctoral Fellow FWO, 18 pp.
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