SCOR WG138 Introduction

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SCOR WG138 Modern Planktonic Foraminifera

SCOR/IGBP Working Group 138

Modern Planktic Foraminifera and Ocean Changes

About the Project

Planktic foraminifera are arguably the most important carriers of paleoclimate information available to scientists. Our ability to reconstruct past climate states and to predict the impact of the functioning of foraminifera under changing oceanic conditions in the future depends on a complete understanding of their ecology, biology, physiology and the mechanisms by which they incorporate geochemical tracers for reconstructing oceanic temperature, pH and salinity. The last synthesis of the state-of-the-art on planktic foraminifer was published 20 years ago (Hemleben et al., 1989). Since then, a suite of new technologies and experimental methods have been applied to living and fossil foraminifera that have resulted in new biological and ecological insights on this group. The result has been an expanded context and wealth of novel ways to data mine the thousands of publications that exist in the literature. The proposed synthesis of knowledge and techniques will be a 21st century keystone that both articulates and focuses future research needs and potentials. The Working group will disseminate the current knowledge of this field to active researchers, students, specialists and other users of foraminiferal data, from the fields of the marine carbon cycle, through paleoclimate reconstructions to model predictions of future climate change.Watch the introduction to the working group here


Planktic foraminifera are the major source of proxy information for reconstructing past changes in ocean biological, chemical and physical parameters. Species assemblages and the geochemical composition of shell calcite provide much of the primary paleoenvironmental information used to reconstruct past oceanic temperature, salinity, productivity and changes in the atmospheric hydrological system. These proxies are commonly based on observed correlations between an environmental parameter in the modern ocean and the geochemical or assemblage distribution data from recent ocean sediments. However, understanding such empirical relationships at the bio-physico-chemical level, and quantification of the relevant ecological components influencing a signal are generally not sufficient for an optimal application of the parameter-proxy relationships. An integrated understanding of these processes is necessary for correctly quantifying past ocean physico-chemistry and determining the effect of ongoing ocean change in terms of thermohaline circulation and ocean acidification on the calcification of these organisms.

Given the large amount of recent research, the lack of any synthetic work for two decades and the upcoming significant generation shift, we believe it is time to integrate the broad knowledge from different (bio-physico-chemical) disciplines, which relate to modern planktic foraminifera. They include 1) their spatial and temporal distribution in the world ocean, 2) their calcification mechanisms, 3) thebiological and chemical controls on their shell chemistry and 4) their ecophenotypical and genotypical variability. Experts studying in these areas of plankic foraminiferal ecology, biology and chemistry often work on an individual basis and interact and collaborate occasionally, but have not yet fully integrated to address the fundamental issues in this research area in a coordinated way. The proposed working group would provide a mechanism to make this happen as well as to provide a platform to involve young scientists as well as researchers from developing countries.

Results from this working group should stimulate active scientific networking, especially for engaging younger scientists, as well as produce future research proposals and projects.. The WG will profit from national and international research programmes (e.g. the EU FP7) and the projects of its members and in turn will provide an umbrella for international research efforts that include the sharing of novel ideas and research tools for future planktic foraminiferal analyses and data interpretation. Cooperation with IGBP PAGES has been initiated to establish a joint SCOR/IGBP WG. The WG will also be open for, and actively stimulate cooperation with, related international scientific initiatives in which the proposed members of the group are actively involved.



WG138:WG 138 Editorial area