Biogeochemistry and geochemical paleoceanography of the South Pacific Gyre
Dunlea, Ann G.
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Pelagic clays cover nearly one half of the ocean floor, but are rarely used for paleoceanographic research because of their extremely slow sedimentation rates, post-depositional alteration(s), and the lack of biogenic material available to provide ages. My dissertation develops and applies approaches to study pelagic clays by targeting the largest marine sediment province in the world: the South Pacific Gyre (SPG). I present an unprecedented spatially and temporally extensive paleoceanographic history of the SPG and discuss authigenic processes in pelagic clays that are linked to changes in global seawater composition through the Cenozoic. My research was based on an extensive inorganic geochemical dataset I developed from samples gathered during Integrated Ocean Drilling Program Expedition 329. I applied multivariate statistical techniques (e.g., Q-mode factor analysis and constrained least squares multiple linear regression (CLS)) to the dataset in order to (a) identify the existence of six end-members in pelagic clay (namely, eolian dust, Fe/Mn-oxyhydroxides, apatite, excess Si, and two types of volcanic ash), (b) quantify their abundances, (c) determine their mass accumulation rates, and (d) infer major features in the paleoceanographic evolution of the SPG. Key parts of my research also developed improved MATLAB codes to facilitate and speed the search for best fitting end-member combinations in CLS modeling. Additionally, I expanded the natural gamma radiation instrumental capabilities on the D/V JOIDES Resolution to quantify concentrations of uranium, thorium, and potassium. I dated the pelagic clay at four of the IODP sites with a cobalt-based age model that I developed, and documented that the seawater behavior of cobalt determines the extent to which this method can be applied. Collectively, the results track the spatial extent of dust deposition in the SPG during the aridification of Australia, dispersed ash accumulation from episodes of Southern Hemisphere volcanism, and other features of Earth’s evolution during the Cenozoic. I further quantified two geochemically distinct types of authigenic ash alterations within the pelagic clay, indicating that altered ashes may be a significant and variable sink of magnesium in seawater over geologic timescales.