Black shales and carbon isotopes in pelagic sediments from the Tethyan Lower Jurassic

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ABSTRACT

Detailed sampling and analysis of Jurassic pelagic limestones and marls from Italy, Hungary and Switzerland have enabled construction of an isotope stratigraphy across the Pliensbachian-Toarcian boundary with resolution to the zonal level. The oxygen-isotope record is unremarkable. The carbon isotopes, however, show two positive excursions: one, relatively minor, during the Pliensbachian, margaritatus Zone, subnodosus Subzone, the other, more major, during the Toarcian. early falciferum Zone, where a maximum δ13C value of 4·52%PDB is attained. These intervals are known to be favoured periods of organic-rich sedimentation in diverse parts of the globe and the isotopic excursions are interpreted as a response to abnormally high rates of storage of organic carbon in the sedimentary record. A comparable phenomenon has been documented from the Cenomanian-Turonian boundary in the Cretaceous where it has been referred to the influence of an ‘Oceanic Anoxic Event’.

Some Italian sections spanning this Lower Jurassic interval contain organic-rich shales in the falciferum Zone; the isotopic signatures from their included, locally manganiferous carbonate betray a considerable diagenetic overprint and they cannot therefore be incorporated in a composite isotopic curve. Carbon isotopes from the organic carbon itself are extremely negative, falling to –33δPDB and, in one section examined in detail, correlate with the calcium-carbonate content of the shales; they may reflect a partial change to a non-calcified planktonic biota during deposition of this lime-poor interval, possibly responding to upwelling and increased fertility of near-surface waters. The onset of upwelling may have been as early as spinatum-tenuicostatum Zone time, that is, at the Pliensbachian-Toarcian boundary.

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