UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

Assessing the reliability of sedimentary Nd isotopic composition to reconstruct past changes in deep water mass distribution Patton, Genevieve


To better understand how our climate will change in the future, we look to past analogues of our current climate and rely on indicators of past fluctuations preserved in marine sediment. One such indicator is the isotopic composition of neodymium preserved in authigenic phases of marine sediment, which has been widely applied to reconstruct water mass distribution through time. However, recent studies have suggested that the Nd isotopic composition of authigenic phases associated with foraminifera and bulk marine sediment is influenced by early diagenesis. This dissertation documents through experiments and numerical modelling that the Nd isotopic composition of these authigenic phases is influenced by Nd released to pore water through lithogenic dissolution. To identify the source of Nd to a synthetic authigenic phase, we use an incubation of sediment and seawater from the local Strait of Georgia. By tagging the seawater with a unique isotopic ratio, we show that pore water primarily determines the Nd isotopic composition of the authigenic phase. Then, we examine core top sediment in the Labrador Sea, which acts as a natural analogue of the incubation experiment. The seawater in the region has a more radiogenic Nd isotopic composition than the sediment which fills the basin, providing two natural end members. Measurements of the Nd isotopic composition of foraminifera and the authigenic phase associated with bulk sediment are significantly more unradiogenic than seawater. These measurements indicate that seawater is not the primary source of Nd to the authigenic phases in this region. By constructing a numerical model of Nd concentration and isotopic composition in pore water, we are able to quantify diagenetic Nd added to authigenic phases and apply this numerical model to a location in the Equatorial Atlantic Ocean. The diagenetic biases that shift the ℇNd of foraminiferal records in this region mimic the expected variations in ocean circulation. While the authigenic phase associated with foraminifera and bulk sediment leachates seems to preserve the ℇNd of modern seawater, this proxy is subject to effects of diagenesis that change in time, and therefore we conclude that it is not a reliable recorder of ocean circulation.

Item Citations and Data


Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International