Geological Society of London
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Quantifying bioturbation of a simulated ash fall event

posted on 2016-06-21, 11:35 authored by Joe A. Todd, William E. N. Austin, Peter M. Abbott

Tephrochronology allows the establishment of ‘isochrons’ between marine, lacustrine, terrestrial and ice cores, typically based on the geochemical fingerprint of the tephra. The development of cryptotephrochronology has revealed a vast inventory of isochrons which hold the potential to improve stratigraphic correlation and identify systemic leads and lags in periods of rapid climate change. Unfortunately, bioturbation acts to blur these isochrons, reducing the temporal resolution in marine and lacustrine records. In order to better resolve these event horizons, we require a better understanding of bioturbative processes, and the depth and time over which they operate. To this end, an ash fall event was simulated on the intertidal zone of the Eden Estuary, Fife, Scotland and sediment cores were collected over 10 days. A novel approach to tephra quantification was developed, using the imaging software ImageJ. Our results showed limited bioturbation (mixed depth=18 mm), most likely owing to the fine grain size, low-energy environment and the resulting faunal composition of the sediments. These results imply a strong ecological control on bioturbation, and suggest that inferences may be made about palaeoenvironments from the observed bioturbation profiles.