Evaluating redox cycling across the Toarcian Oceanic Anoxic Event with implications for paleo-environmental reconstructions and organic matter sulfurization

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Virginia Tech


Understanding oxygenation throughout Earth history, particularly intervals where marine deoxygenation occurred, are crucial to investigating the changes in habitability on Earth. Marine deoxygenation events, in particular, can result in changes in the carbon, sulfur, and iron cycles on our planet. Changes in these elemental cycles lead to distinctive variation in the chemical composition of seawater that is recorded in marine sediments that are preserved into the sedimentary record. Our modern ocean is experiencing rapid deoxygenation, thus understanding the duration and extent of ancient deoxygenation events is vital to predicting future climate scenarios. Here I investigated the record of environmental change during the Early Jurassic Toarcian Oceanic Anoxic Event or T-OAE (~183 Ma). The first chapter of this dissertation investigates the record of marine anoxia across the Pliensbachian to Toarcian transition. Specifically, I investigate the temporal and geographic development of anoxia across three basins from the European Epicontinental Seaway. Through utilization of iron speciation, a local redox proxy, I identify anoxia developing before and persisting well after the negative carbon isotope excursion (NCIE) conventionally used to define the T-OAE. These data indicate an increase in the occurrence of anoxia at the Pliensbachian – Toarcian boundary, coincident with the initial phase of volcanism associated with the Karoo-Ferrar Large Igneous Province and an interval of heightened marine invertebrate extinction. Ultimately, our data support a greater temporal extent of anoxic conditions around the T-OAE, which support the greater sensitivity of marine oxygen levels to climatic change outside of the NCIE interval. The second chapter of this dissertation assesses the occurrence and extent of organic matter sulfurization (OMS), a biogeochemical feedback known to enhance the preservation and burial of OM. Because this process is accelerated when euxinic conditions develop in the water column, I investigated it as a mechanism promoting OM burial across two oceanic anoxic events of the Mesozoic. Importantly, I find that sulfurization does not occur uniformly across both events and propose a conceptual model of the depositional settings most favorable for sulfurization to occur and when throughout geologic time OMS is most likely to influence the global cycles of carbon and sulfur.



Ancient marine redox, oceanic anoxic event, Toarcian, sedimentary geochemistry, sulfurization