Coccolith distribution patterns in South Atlantic and Southern Ocean surface sediments in relation to environmental gradients
In this study, the coccolith compositions of 213 surface sediment samples from the South Atlantic and Southern Ocean were analysed with respect to the environmental parameters of the overlying surface waters. From this data set, the abundance patterns of the main species and their ecological affinities were ascertained. In general, Emiliania huxleyi is the most abundant species of the recent coccolith assemblages in the study region. However, the lower photic zone taxa, composed of Florisphaera profunda and Gladiolithus flabellatus often dominate the assemblages between 20°N and 30°S. If E. huxleyi is excluded, Calcidiscus leptoporus and F. profunda become the most abundant species, each dominating discrete oceanographic regimes. While F. profunda is very abundant in the sediments underneath warmer, stratified surface waters with a deep nutricline, Calcidiscus leptoporus is encountered in high-productivity environments. Furthermore, the results of a canonical correspondence analysis reveal affinities of Gephyrocapsa spp., Helicosphaera spp. and Coccolithus pelagicus for intermediate to higher nutrient conditions in a well-mixed upper water column. In contrast, Gladiolithus flabellatus seems to be associated with high temperatures and salinities under low-nutrient conditions. Based on the relative abundances of Calcidiscus leptoporus, F. profunda, Gladiolithus flabellatus, Helicosphaera spp., Umbilicosphaera foliosa, Umbilicosphaera sibogae and a group of subordinate subtropical species, six surface sediment assemblages have been identified, which reflect the distribution and characteristics of the overlying surface waters. Their distribution appears to be mainly a function of the relative position of the nutricline and thermocline in the overlying photic zone.