Paleoceanographic evolution of the Japan Sea over the last 460 kyr – A coccolithophore perspective

Mariem Saavedra-Pellitero*, Karl Heinz Baumann, Stephen John Gallagher, Takuya Sagawa, Ryuji Tada

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Changes in the intensity of the influx of the Tsushima Warm Current (TWC) in the south-central part of the Japan Sea (JS), or East Sea in Korean, were reconstructed for the last 460 kyr at IODP Site U1427 using the composition and abundance of the coccolithophore assemblage. In addition, the recent distribution of coccolithophore taxa in the JS and the East China Sea was assessed using electron microscopy. Coccolithophore assemblages, dominated by Emiliania huxleyi and Gephyrocapsa species, and coccolith abundance reveal a strong relationship between sea level and ocean variability over the last five glacial/interglacial cycles, in good agreement with planktic foraminiferal data. Three different circulation modes based on calcareous nannofossil and foraminifera TWC indicators were proposed for the JS. Coccolith production was low and TWC indicators (i.e., Gephyrocapsa oceanica, Calcidiscus leptoporus s.l., and Helicosphaera carteri) absent due to the isolation of the JS during glacials in response to global sea level falls (Mode 1). In contrast, coccolith abundance and TWC indicators reach a maximum due to the most intense TWC flow through the Tsushima Strait during interglacials (Mode 3). Intermediate conditions (Mode 2) are characterized by moderate/high coccolith numbers, presence of TWC coccolith indicators, and rare TWC planktic foraminifera indicators. This mode resulted in intermittent variations in the contribution of the TWC and East China Sea coastal water due to relatively low sea level stands (ca. −90 m to −20 m). Coccoliths dominated the carbonate sequence prior to MIS 8 and were major contributors to the total carbonate of the sediment at Site U1427, suggesting high coccolithophore productivity and a bloom-type environment during MIS 11 and 9. These changes in the carbonate chemistry caused by glacio-eustacy in the JS at the northwest margin of the Pacific Ocean should be considered in future paleoceanographic and paleoclimate models.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101720
Number of pages16
JournalMarine Micropaleontology
Early online date31 Jan 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Assemblage
  • Biogeography
  • Coccolith
  • Coccolithophores
  • East China Sea
  • Japan Sea
  • Tsushima current

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