Data_Sheet_1_Surface Sediment Samples From Early Age of Seafloor Exploration Can Provide a Late 19th Century Baseline of the Marine Environment.pdf

Ocean-floor sediment samples collected up to 150 years ago represent an important historical archive to benchmark global changes in the seafloor environment, such as species' range shifts and pollution trends. Such benchmarking requires that the historical sediment samples represent the state of the environment at—or shortly before the time of collection. However, early oceanographic expeditions sampled the ocean floor using devices like the sounding tube or a dredge, which potentially disturb the sediment surface and recover a mix of Holocene (surface) and deeper, Pleistocene sediments. Here we use climate-sensitive microfossils as a fast biometric method to assess if historical seafloor samples contain a mixture of modern and glacial sediments. Our assessment is based on comparing the composition of planktonic foraminifera (PF) assemblages in historical samples with Holocene and Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) global reference datasets. We show that eight out of the nine historical samples contain PF assemblages more similar to the Holocene than to the LGM PF assemblages, but the comparisons are only significant when there is a high local species' temporal turnover (from the LGM to the Holocene). When analysing temporal turnover globally, we show that upwelling and temperate regions had greatest species turnover, which are areas where our methodology would be most diagnostic. Our results suggest that sediment samples from historical collections can provide a baseline of the state of marine ecosystems in the late nineteenth century, and thus be used to assess ocean global change trends.