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Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta


The coral skeleton barium to calcium ratio (Ba/Ca ), a proxy for seawater barium concentrations (Ba ), has been interpreted as a tracer of upwelling based on the characteristic "nutrient like" depth profile of Ba . However, in some tropical regions, such as the Gulf of Panamá, substantial influence of terrestrial runoff inputs and differences between the vertical distribution of Ba and that of the major nutrients (nitrate and phosphate) in the upper water column can complicate the interpretation of Ba/Ca as an upwelled nutrient proxy. In the Gulf of Panamá, contemporaneous Ba/Ca records from multiple colonies of Porites lobata, Pavona gigantea, and Pavona clavus corals record a nearly twofold change in surface water Ba as a 20-70% increase in skeletal Ba/Ca with excellent correlation among Ba/Ca records from co-located colonies (r = 0.86-0.99). These results provide, for the first time, an absolute calibration of the coral Ba proxy with a contemporaneous Ba record. Compiling the Ba/Ca records from three co-located colonies of each species into taxon-specific composite regressions reveals strong statistically significant correlations with the Ba time-series record (p < 0.001). Differences among taxa in regression slope, y-intercept, and average distribution coefficient, as well as a demonstration of the application of the P. clavus calibration to a previously published Ba/Ca record, emphasize the necessity of using taxon-specific calibrations to reconstruct changes in Ba with accuracy. These results support the application of Ba/Ca to reconstruct past changes in absolute Ba concentrations, adding an important tool to the collection of geochemical proxies for reconstructing surface ocean biogeochemical processes in the past. coral SW SW SW coral coral SW SW coral SW coral SW coral SW

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