Driving factors of shell growth of sub-fossil Glycymeris nummaria shells deposited by high energy events into layers at the Atlantic coast of the Iberian Peninsula were investigated by stable isotope analysis and analysing their growth patterns.
High energy events deposited layers of cockles along the coast of Cádiz Bay during the Roman Period (313 ± 114 AD) and the Dark Ages (648 ± 108 AD) (Gutiérrez-Mas, 2011). The climate fluctuation of the region between these two periods was largely investigated by analysing sediment cores from the pro-deltas on the Iberian margin (e.g. Bartels-Jónsdóttir et al., 2015), Glycymeris shells, however can provide seasonal data of temperature change and the seasonality in chemical characteristics of the marine ecosystems. Comparing the paleotemperature data reconstructed from oxygen isotope ratios of seasonally sampled shell carbonate indicates no significant cooling for the ‘Dark Ages Cold Period’ (DACP) for the Cádiz Bay. The seasonality of carbon isotope ratios however showed distinct changes between the Roman Period and the DACP. Seasonal maxima of δ13C values were twice as higher during the DACP which indicates seasonally intensified biological fractionation connected to enhanced primary productivity. This agrees with other studies implying intensified coastal upwelling during the DACP along the Iberian Peninsula, while they observe no significant cooling of the sea surface (Bartels-Jónsdottir et al. 2015). This case study adds to the growing number of evidence that the DACP can not be interpreted as a Europe-wide cooling event as it affected southern regions differently.