Stable Isotope Values in Modern Bryozoan Carbonate from New Zealand and Implications for Paleoenvironmental Interpretation

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Publication Date



Earth Sciences



Publication Title

New Zealand Journal of Geology and Geophysics


Bryozoan carbonate contains useful geochemical evidence of temperate shelf paleoenvironments. Stable isotope values were determined for 103 modern marine bryozoan skeletons representing 30 species from New Zealand. δ18O values range from-1.4 to 2.8‰VPDB, while δ13C range from -4.5 to 2.8‰ VPDB (values uncorrected for mineralogical variation). These values are distinct from those of both tropical marine skeletons and New Zealand Tertiary fossils. Most bryozoans secrete carbonate in or near isotopic equilibrium with sea water, except for Celleporina and Steginoporella. The complex and variable mineralogies of the bryozoans reported here make correction for mineralogical effects problematic. Nevertheless, mainly aragonitic forms display higher isotope values, as anticipated. Both temperature and salinity constrain δ18O and δ13C values, and vary with latitude and water depth. Ten samples from a single branch of Cinctipora elegans from the Otago shelf cover a narrow range, although the striking difference in carbon isotope values between the endozone and exozone probably reflects different mineralisation histories. Our stable isotope results from three different laboratories on a single population from a single location are encouragingly consistent. Monomineralic bryozoans, when carefully chosen to avoid species suspected of vital fractionation, have considerable potential as geochemical paleoenvironmental indicators, particularly in temperate marine environments where bryozoans are dominant sediment producers.


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