Field of Science

Sedimentary Organic Matter Characterization of the Triassic–Jurassic Boundary

Ruhl, M., Veld, H., and W.M. Kürschner. 2010. Sedimentary organic matter characterization of the Triassic–Jurassic boundary GSSP at Kuhjoch (Austria). Earth and Planetary Science Letters 292:17–26. doi:10.1016/j.epsl.2009.12.046


Abstract - The Triassic–Jurassic (T–J) boundary interval coincides with enhanced extinction rates in the marine realm and pronounced changes in terrestrial ecosystems on the continents. It is further marked by distinct negative excursions in the δ13Corg and 13Ccarb signature that may represent strong perturbations of the global carbon cycle. We present integrated geochemical, stable-isotope and palynological data from the Kuhjoch section, the Global boundary Stratotype Section and Point (GSSP) for the base of the Jurassic (Northern Calcareous Alps, Austria). We show that the initial carbon isotope excursion (CIE), coinciding with the marine extinction interval and the formation of black shales in the western Tethys Eiberg Basin, is marked by only minor changes in kerogen type, which is mainly of terrestrial origin. Increased Total Organic Carbon (TOC) concentrations of 9% at the first half of the initial CIE coincide with Hydrogen Index (HI) values of over 600 mg HC/g TOC. The high correlation (with R2=0.93) between HI values and terrestrial Cheirolepidiaceaen conifer pollen suggests a terrestrial source for the hydrogen enriched organic compounds. The lack of major changes in source of the sedimentary organic matter suggests that changes in the δ13Corg composition are genuine and represent true disturbances of the global C-cycle. The sudden decrease in total inorganic carbon (TIC) concentrations likely represents the onset of a biocalcification crisis. It coincides with a 4.5‰ negative shift in δ13Corg values and possibly corresponds to the onset of CAMP related volcanic activity. The second half of the initial CIE is marked by the dramatic increase of green algae remains in the sediment. The simultaneous increase of the Corg/Ntot ratio suggests increased marine primary production at the final stage of black shale formation.

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