Sedimentology & Marine Paleoenvironmental Dynamics
Research objectives of the working group
In light of present climate change it is mandatory to understand the underlying processes and mechanisms. Looking back into the Earth’s past can yield important insights ino the future. This holds particularly true for intervals in Earth’s history that were characterized by climatic boundary conditions that were similar to those predicted for future global-warming scenarios. Such intervals comprise greenhouse phases of the Mesozoic and Paleogene as well as abrupt climatic oscillations of the Plio-/Pleistocene.
Because the ocean is a major player within the global climate system, the research activities of our working group focus mainly on the marine realm. Faunal and geochemical investigations on microfossils preserved in marine sediments allow us to reconstruct important environmental variables such as the temperature and salinity of surface and deep waters, global ice volume, and the oxygen and nutrient availability on the sea floor. The development and ground-truthing of proxies based on calcareous microfossils (particularly foraminifera) are another important component of our research.
A further important aspect of our research is the sedimentological and geochemical analysis of sediments. This enables us to reconstruct physico-chemical properties of depositional systems such as oxygen concentrations or the strength of bottom-water currents. Integrating sediment-based investigations with faunal and geochemical evidence derived from microfossils, we aim to to understand the climatic and environmental dynamics of the past.
Our current research projects focus on periods of the Meso- and Cenozoic (in particular the past 140 million years) that were characterized by fundamental paleoenvironmental perturbations. Ongoing research is e.g., on the origination of organic-rich sediments that were deposited during the greenhouse conditions of the Cretaceous and the impact of climatic changes on ocean currents. Another research focus is on the drivers of successive build-up of large Cenozoic ice sheets and its consequences for marine ecosystems and global climate.