Record of methane emissions from the West Svalbard continental margin during the last 23.500yrs revealed by δ13C of benthic foraminifera

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


  • Giuliana Panieri
  • Rachael H. James
  • Angelo Camerlenghi
  • Chiara Consolaro
  • Isabel Cacho
  • Valentina Cesari
  • Cristina Sanchez Cervera

Colleges, School and Institutes


The values of δ13C in benthic foraminifera have been measured in a gas-hydrate-bearing sediment core collected from an area of active methane venting on the Vestnesa Ridge (West Svalbard continental margin) to reconstruct the local history of methane emissions over the past 23.500 yrs BP. The chronostratigraphic framework of the core has been derived from AMS 14C dates and biostratigraphic analysis. While foraminifera from some intervals have δ13C within the normal marine range (0 to − 1‰), five intervals are characterized by a much lower δ13C, as low as − 17.4‰. These intervals are interpreted to record the incorporation of 13C-depleted carbon in the presence of methane emissions at the seafloor during biomineralization of the carbonate foraminiferal tests and subsequent secondary mineralization. Methane emission events (MEE) occur from the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) to the Holocene, with the most prominent one, in terms of δ13C depletion, predating the Bølling–Allerød Interstadial (GI-1 in the Greenland ice core record). The lack of correlation between the values of δ13C and δ18O, however, appears to preclude warming of bottom waters as the principal control on methane release. Rather, it seems likely that methane release is a consequence of episodicity in the supply of gas to the hydrate system and in the processes that enable methane gas to migrate through the hydrate stability field to the seabed, or of other geological processes still under debate.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)151-160
JournalGlobal and Planetary Change
Early online date21 Aug 2014
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2014


  • Methane emission, Vestnesa Ridge, West Svalbard, Stable isotope, δ13C, Benthic foraminifera