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The spread of marine anoxia on the northern Tethys margin during the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle



Alexander J. Dickson, Rhian L. Rees-Owen, Christian März, Angela L. Coe, Anthony S. Cohen, Richard D. Pancost, Kyle Taylor, Ekaterina Shcherbinina


Records of the paleoenvironmental changes that occurred during the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM) are preserved in sedimentary rocks along the margins of the former Tethys Ocean and Peri-Tethys. This paper presents new geochemical data that constrain paleoproductivity, sediment delivery, and seawater redox conditions, from three sites that were located in the Peri-Tethys region. Trace and major element, iron speciation, and biomarker data indicate that water column anoxia was established during episodes when inputs of land-derived higher plant organic carbon and highly weathered detrital clays and silts became relatively higher. Anoxic conditions are likely to have been initially caused by two primary processes: (i) oxygen consumption by high rates of marine productivity, initially stimulated by the rapid delivery of terrestrially derived organic matter and nutrients, and (ii) phosphorus regeneration from seafloor sediments. The role of the latter process requires further investigation before its influence on the spread of deoxygenated seawater during the PETM can be properly discerned. Other oxygen-forcing processes, such as temperature/salinity-driven water column stratification and/or methane oxidation, are considered to have been relatively less important in the study region. Organic carbon enrichments occur only during the initial stages of the PETM as defined by the negative carbon isotope excursions at each site. The lack of observed terminal stage organic carbon enrichment does not support a link between PETM climate recovery and the sequestration of excess atmospheric CO2 as organic carbon in this region; such a feedback may, however, have been important in the early stages of the PETM.



Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)471-488
Number of pages18
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2014

    Research areas

  • biomarkers, carbon burial, PETM, redox, Tethys, trace elements

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