Oxygen- and carbon-isotopic analyses have been performed on the benthic foraminifer Planulina wuellerstorfi in seven Late Quaternary cores from the Vema Channel-Rio Grande Rise region. The cores are distributed over the water-depth interval of 2340 to 3939 m, which includes the present transition from North Atlantic Deep Water (NADW) to Antarctic Bottom Water (AABW).
The carbon-isotopic records in the cores vary as a function of water depth. The shallowest and deepest cores show no significant glacial-interglacial difference in δ13C. Four of the five cores presently located in the NADW have benthic foraminiferal δ13C that is lower during glacial isotopic stages. Based on bathymetric gradients in δ13C, we conclude that, like today, there were two water masses present in the Vema Channel during glacial intervals: a water mass enriched in 13C overlying another water mass depleted in 13C. The largest gradient of change of δ13C with depth, however, occurred at 2.7 km, ∼ 1 km shallower than the present position of this gradient.
On the basis of paleontologic and sedimentologic evidence, we consider it unlikely that the NADW:AABW transition shallowed to this level. Reduced carbon-isotopic gradients between the deep basins of the North Atlantic and Pacific Oceans during the last glaciation suggest that production of NADW was reduced. Lower production of NADW may have modified the local abyssal circulation pattern in the Vema Channel region.