Phosphorus is a key macronutrient being strongly enriched in the deep ocean as a result of continuous export and remineralization of biomass from primary production. We show that phosphorus incorporated within the skeletons of the cosmopolitan cold-water coral Desmophyllum dianthus is directly proportional to the ambient seawater phosphorus concentration and thus may serve as a paleo-oceanographic proxy for variations in ocean productivity as well as changes in the residence times and sources of deep-water masses. The application of this tool to fossil specimens from the Mediterranean reveals phosphorus-enriched bottom waters at the end of the Younger Dryas period.
Montagna, P., Mcculloch, M., Taviani, M., Mazzoli, C., & Vendrell, B. (2006). Phosphorus in Cold-Water Corals as a Proxy for Seawater Nutrient Chemistry. Science, 312, 1788-1791. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1125781