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The negative consequences of fossil fuel burning for the oceans will likely include warming, acidification and deoxygenation, yet predicting future deoxygenation is difficult. Sensitive proxies for oxygen concentrations in ancient deep-ocean bottom-waters are needed to learn from patterns of marine deoxygenation during global warming conditions in the geological past. Understanding of past oxygenation effects related to climate change will better inform us about future patterns of deoxygenation. Here we describe a new, quantitative biological proxy for determining ocean paleo-oxygen concentrations: the surface area of pores (used for gas exchange) in the tests of deep-sea benthic foraminifera collected alive from 22 locations (water depths: 400 to 4100 m) at oxygen levels ranging from ~ 2 to ~ 277 μmol/l. This new proxy is based on species that are widely distributed geographically, bathymetrically and chronologically, and therefore should have broad applications. Our calibration demonstrates a strong, negative logarithmic correlation between bottom-water oxygen concentrations and pore surface area, indicating that pore surface area of fossil epifaunal benthic foraminifera can be used to reconstruct past changes in deep ocean oxygen and redox levels.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.