EGU General Assembly 2023
© Author(s) 2023. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Middle to Late Miocene responses of primary producers to monsoonal upwelling in the western Arabian Sea

Gerald Auer1, Or M Bialik2,3, Mary-Elizabeth Antoulas1, and Werner E Piller1
Gerald Auer et al.
  • 1University of Graz, Institute of Earth Sciences, Graz, Austria (
  • 2University of Muenster, Institute of Geology and Palaeontology, Münster, Germany
  • 3Dr. Moses Strauss Department of Marine Geosciences, The Leon H. Charney School of Marine Sciences, University of Haifa, Haifa, Israel

Today, the western Arabian Sea represents one of the most productive marine areas in the world. The high productivity in this region is governed by upwelling related to the intensity of the South Asian Monsoon (SAM). Previous studies show that high productivity has prevailed since the late Early Miocene (~15 Ma) after establishing a favorable tectonic configuration in the region. Existing productivity records have further demonstrated that upwelling intensity varied in the western Arabian Sea over different time scales. This variability has been attributed mainly to changing monsoonal upwelling intensity linked to global climatic changes. However, the abundance and contribution of individual primary producers (calcareous nannoplankton and diatoms) have never been studied in the context of upwelling and SAM changes. To fully disentangle the variability in the context of local upwelling changes and nutrient availability at ODP Site 722B, we link assemblage-based primary productivity records to the established multi-proxy framework in the region. Quantitative nannofossil assemblage records and absolute diatom abundances are examined in conjunction with existing and new planktonic foraminifer data to better constrain the temporal variation in productivity in the western Arabian Sea.

In our record, the first increase in cool and eutrophic nannofossil taxa (i.e., Coccolithus pelagicus and Reticulofenestra pseudoumbilicus) corresponds to the initial phase of sea surface temperatures (SST) cooling ~13.4 Ma. By ~12 Ma, rare occurrences of diatoms frustules correspond to the maximum abundances of Reticulofenestra haqii and Reticulofenestra antarctica, indicating higher upwelling derived nutrient levels. However, these changes ~12 Ma occur in the absence of coeval high latitude cooling, as shown by deep-sea benthic oxygen isotope records. By 11 Ma, diatom abundance increases significantly, leading to alternating blooms of upwelling sensitive diatom species (Thalassionema spp.) and eutrophic nannoplankton species (e.g., R. pseudoumbilicus). These changes in primary producers are also well reflected in geochemical proxies with increasing δ15Norg. values (> 6‰) and high C/N ratios also confirming high productivity and beginning denitrification at the same time.

Our multi-proxy-based evaluation of Site 722B primary producers thus indicates a stepwise evolution of productivity in the western Arabian Sea related to the intensity of upwelling and forcing SAM dynamics throughout the Middle to Late Miocene. The absence of full correspondence with existing deep marine climate records also suggests that local processes, such as lateral nutrient transport, likely played an important role in modulating productivity in the western Arabian Sea. We show that using a multi-proxy record provides novel insights into how fossil primary producers responded to changing nutrient conditions through time in a monsoon-wind-driven upwelling zone.

How to cite: Auer, G., Bialik, O. M., Antoulas, M.-E., and Piller, W. E.: Middle to Late Miocene responses of primary producers to monsoonal upwelling in the western Arabian Sea, EGU General Assembly 2023, Vienna, Austria, 24–28 Apr 2023, EGU23-12214,, 2023.