Campus Units

Geological and Atmospheric Sciences

Document Type


Publication Version

Accepted Manuscript

Publication Date


Journal or Book Title

Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology





First Page


Last Page





The ability of the ocean to absorb carbon dioxide is likely to be adversely affected by recent climate change. However, relatively little is known about the spatiotemporal variability in the oceanic carbon cycle due to the lack of long-term, high-resolution dissolved inorganic carbon isotope (δ13CDIC) data, especially for the temperate North Atlantic, which is the major oceanic sink for anthropogenic CO2. Here, we report shell carbon isotope values (δ13Cshell), a potential proxy for δ13CDIC, of old-grown specimens of the long-lived bivalve mollusk, Arctica islandica. This paper presents the first absolutely dated, annually resolved δ13Cshell record from surface waters of the North Atlantic (Iceland, Gulf of Maine) covering the time interval between 1753 and 2003. According to our results, the δ13Cshell data were unaffected by trends related to ontogenetic age. However, the shell carbonate was precipitated with a constant offset from expected equilibrium by − 1.54 to − 2.7 ± 0.2‰ corresponding to a 6.2 to 10.8 ± 0.8% contribution of respiratory CO2 (− 25‰). The offset did not appear to vary through the lifetime of individual specimens and among specimens. Therefore, the δ13Cshell data of this species can very likely be used as a measure of δ13CDIC.

Furthermore, shell stable carbon isotope chronologies exhibited habitat-specific differences and a significant inter-annual and decadal variability related to the natural carbon cycle. In addition, a distinct negative δ13Cshell shift was found reflecting the oceanic Suess effect, i.e. the admixture of anthropogenic CO2. However, this shift only occurred after the early 1920s when a major climate regime shift led to a northward movement of the oceanic Polar Front in the Nordic Seas and a large-scale reorganization of atmospheric and oceanic currents in the North Atlantic. This likely resulted in a reduced admixture of cold Polar water onto the North Icelandic shelf (through the East Iceland Current) and the Gulf of Maine (through the Labrador Current) with an increased volume of warmer, isotopically well-equilibrated Atlantic waters. Our shell-based δ13CDIC proxy record provides the basis to quantitatively assess natural and anthropogenically induced patterns of carbon uptake in the North Atlantic.


This is a manuscript of an article published as Schöne, Bernd R., Alan D. Wanamaker Jr, Jens Fiebig, Julien Thébault, and Karl Kreutz. "Annually resolved δ13Cshell chronologies of long-lived bivalve mollusks (Arctica islandica) reveal oceanic carbon dynamics in the temperate North Atlantic during recent centuries." Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 302, no. 1-2 (2011): 31-42. doi: 10.1016/j.palaeo.2010.02.002. Posted with permission.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Copyright Owner

Elsevier B.V.



File Format


Published Version