Radiocarbon age relationships between co-occurring planktic foraminifera, alkenones and total organic carbon in sediments from the continental margins of Southern Chile, Northwest Africa and the South China Sea were compared with published results from the Namibian margin. Age relationships between the sediment components are site-specific and relatively constant over time. Similar to the Namibian slope, where alkenones have been reported to be 1000 to 4500 years older than co-occurring foraminifera, alkenones were significantly (~1000 yrs) older than co-occurring foraminifera in the Chilean margin sediments. In contrast, alkenones and foraminifera were of similar age (within 2 error or better) in the NW African and South China Sea sediments. Total-organic-matter and alkenone ages were similar off Namibia (age difference TOC-alkenones: 200-700 years), Chile (100-450 years), and NW Africa (360-770 years), suggesting minor contributions of pre-aged terrigenous material. In the South China Sea total organic carbon is significantly (2000-3000 yrs) older due to greater inputs of pre-aged terrigenous material.Age offsets between alkenones and planktic foraminifera are attributed to lateral advection of organic matter. Physical characteristics of the depositional setting, such as sea-floor morphology, shelf width, and sediment composition, may control the age of co-occurring sediment components. In particular, offsets between alkenones and foraminifera appear to be greatest in deposition centers in morphologic depressions. Aging of organic matter is promoted by transport. Age offsets are correlated with organic richness, suggesting that formation of organic aggregate is a key process.
EPIC Alfred Wegener Institut