Abstract

The Early Jurassic Toarcian oceanic anoxic event (183 Ma) was marked by marine anoxia–euxinia and globally significant organic-matter burial, accompanied by a major global carbon-cycle perturbation probably linked to Karoo–Ferrar volcanism. Although the Toarcian oceanic anoxic event is well studied in the marine realm, accompanying climatic and environmental change on the continents is poorly understood. Here, utilizing radioisotopic, palynological and geochemical data from lacustrine black shales, we demonstrate that a large lake system developed contemporaneously with the Toarcian oceanic anoxic event in the Sichuan Basin, China, probably due to enhanced hydrological cycling under elevated atmospheric pCO 2. We attribute increased lacustrine organic productivity to elevated fluvial nutrient supply, which resulted in the burial of 460 Gt of organic carbon in the Sichuan Basin alone, creating an important negative feedback in the global exogenic carbon cycle. We suggest that enhanced nutrient delivery to marine and large lacustrine systems was a key component in the global carbon cycle recovery during the Toarcian oceanic anoxic event and acted to shorten the duration of the recovery of global δ13C values.

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Acknowledgements

Shell International Exploration & Production B.V. is acknowledged for financial support for this study. D.S. acknowledges the Total endowment fund. R.D.P. and B.D.A.N. acknowledge funding from the advanced ERC grant ‘the greenhouse earth system’ (T-GRES, project reference 340923). All authors thank Shell Global Solutions International B.V., Shell China Exploration & Production Co. Ltd, and PetroChina Southwest Oil and Gasfield Company for approval to publish this study. J.B.R. publishes with the approval of the Executive Director, British Geological Survey (NERC). CGG Robertson and Shell are acknowledged for providing the palaeogeographic reconstruction used in Fig. 1. T.-R. Jiang, M. Dransfield and X.-Y. Li (Shell China Exploration and Production Co. Ltd), O. Podlaha, S. v. d. Boorn (Shell Global Solutions International B.V.), Q. Zeng and Z. Tang (PetroChina Southwest Oil and Gasfield Company) and B. Levell (University of Oxford) are acknowledged for discussions and reviews of earlier versions of the manuscript and for providing sample materials. We also thank reviewers D. Kemp and G. Suan for comments and suggestions that have greatly improved this manuscript. This paper is also a contribution to UNESCO-IUGS IGCP Project 632.

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Affiliations

  1. Department of Earth Sciences, University of Oxford, Oxford OX1 3AN, UK

    • Weimu Xu
    • , Micha Ruhl
    • , Hugh C. Jenkyns
    •  & Erdem F. Idiz
  2. Camborne School of Mines and Environment and Sustainability Institute, University of Exeter, Penryn TR10 9FE, UK

    • Stephen P. Hesselbo
  3. British Geological Survey, Keyworth, Nottingham NG12 5GG, UK

    • James B. Riding
  4. Department of Earth Sciences, University of Durham, Durham DH1 3LE, UK

    • David Selby
  5. Organic Geochemistry Unit, School of Chemistry and Cabot Institute, University of Bristol, Bristol BS8 1TS, UK

    • B. David A. Naafs
    •  & Richard D. Pancost
  6. Shell Global Solutions International B.V., Rijswijk 2288 GS, The Netherlands

    • Johan W. H. Weijers
    •  & Erik W. Tegelaar

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Contributions

W.X., M.R., H.C.J. and S.P.H. designed the project. W.X. and M.R. performed core description and sampling. W.X., M.R., J.B.R., D.S. J.W.H.W. and B.D.A.N. performed geochemical and palynological analyses. All authors contributed to data analysis and interpretation and writing and/or refinement of the manuscript.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Correspondence to Weimu Xu.

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https://doi.org/10.1038/ngeo2871

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