Journal article

Full citation: 

The Palaeocene-Eocene thermal maximum (PETM) is characterized by a global negative carbon isotope excursion (CIE) and widespread dissolution of seafloor carbonate sediments. The latter feature supports the hypothesis that the PETM and CIE were caused by the rapid release of a large mass (greater than 2000 Ct C) of 12 C-enriched carbon. The source of this carbon, however, remains a mystery. Possible sources include volcanically driven thermal combustion of organic-rich sediment, dissociation of seafloor methane hydrates and desiccation and oxidation of soil/sediment organics. A key constraint on the source(s) is the rate at which the carbon was released. Fast rates would be consistent with a catastrophic event, e.g. massive methane hydrate dissociation, whereas slower rates might implicate other processes. The PETM carbon flux is currently constrained by high-resolution marine and terrestrial records of the CIE. In pelagic bulk carbonate records, the onset of the CIE is often expressed as a single- or multiple-step excursion extending over 10(4) years. Individual planktonic shell records, in contrast, always show a single-step CIE, with either pre-excursion or excursion isotope values, but no transition values. Benthic foraminifera, records, which are less complete owing to extinction and diminutive assemblages, show a delayed excursion. Here, we compile and evaluate the individual planktonic shell isotope data, from several localities. Ve find that the most expanded records consistently show a bimodal isotope distribution pattern regardless of location, water depth or depositional facies. This suggests one of several possibilities: (i) the isotopic composition of the surface ocean/atmosphere declined in a geologic instant ( < 500 yr), (ii) that during the onset of the CIE, most shells of mixed-layer planktonic foraminifera were dissolved, or (iii) the abundances or shell

Publication date: 
Sunday, July 15, 2007