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Quaternary ­sea-­level and palaeotidal changes: a review of impacts on, and responses of, the marine biosphere
Scourse, J.D. (2013). Quaternary ­sea-­level and palaeotidal changes: a review of impacts on, and responses of, the marine biosphere. Oceanogr. Mar. Biol. Ann. Rev. 51: 1-70 + 8 figures
In: Oceanography and Marine Biology: An Annual Review. Aberdeen University Press/Allen & Unwin: London. ISSN 0078-3218, more
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  • Scourse, J.D.

    Driven by the glacio-eustatic mechanism, Earth is currently experiencing a phase of high-amplitude sea-level cycles as large as any during its history. Since shelf seas only develop during transgressive highstands, they are transient, yet they are recognized as disproportionately biologically and biogeochemically significant within Earth's system. This review explores the significance of the transience of the shelf seas by considering impacts on, and responses of, the marine biosphere to Quaternary sea-level cycles and to concomitant palaeotidal changes. Geological evidence for sea-level changes and their simulation by glacio-isostatic adjustment (GIA) models is reviewed, enabling the timing, duration and extent of shelf inundation to be assessed. Biological impacts of sea-level change include adjustments in habitat type and extent, species' distributions, biodiversity and reproductive isolation leading to genetic change. Conflict between physical palaeoenvironmental evidence and molecular marker data indicating cryptic northern glacial refugia in the Northern Hemisphere remains unresolved. Changes in tidal amplitudes and tide-dependent parameters (bed stress, seasonal stratification) in response to sea-level changes can be simulated using palaeotidal and palaeowave models constrained by geological data. Palaeotidal changes have significant impacts on productivity, dispersal and benthic habitat distribution. The balance of production and respiration in shelf seas is altered by changing sea-level and tidal dynamics influencing atmospheric pCO(2). The significant potential of GIA, palaeotidal and palaeo-environmental niche modelling approaches for quantifying the biological and biogeochemical impacts of sea-level and palaeotidal change is emphasized.

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