The Little Ice Age (LIA) is the last episode of a series of Holocene climatic anomalies. There is still little knowledge on the response of the marine environment to the pronounced cooling of the LIA and to the transition towards the 20th century global warming. Here we present decadal-scale coccolithophore data from four short cores recovered from the central Mediterranean Sea (northern Sicily Channel and Tyrrhenian Sea), which on the basis of 210Pb activity span the last 200-350 years. The lowermost part of the record of one of the cores from the Sicily Channel, Station 407, which extends down to 1650 AD, is characterized by drastic changes in productivity. Specifically, below 1850 AD, the decrease in abundance of F. profunda and the increase of placoliths, suggest increased productivity. The chronology of this change is related to the main phase of the Little Ice Age, which might have impacted the hydrography of the southern coast of Sicily and promoted vertical mixing in the water column. The comparison with climatic forcings points out the importance of stronger and prolonged northerly winds, together with decreased solar irradiance. © Author(s) 2010.