Ocean oxidation during the deposition of basal Ediacaran Doushantuo cap carbonates in the Yangtze Platform, South China

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© 2016 Elsevier B.V.. Precipitation of cap carbonate lithologies is a key feature of Cryogenian global glaciations. Negative carbonate carbon isotopic compositions (δ13Ccarb) of these cap carbonates have been variably interpreted as massive drawdown of atmospheric CO2 via extensive continental chemical weathering, methane oxidation, or postglacial upwelling. Each of these interpretations argues a non-steady state of carbon cycle in the aftermath of Marinoan global glaciation. To further explore the postglacial marine carbon cycle, we measured δ13Ccarb of cap carbonates from six localities in the Yangtze Platform, South China. The studied cap carbonates were deposited in a variety of sedimentary environments, ranging from the open shelf, slope, to basin facies. Cap carbonates deposited in different environments show distinct stratigraphic trends of δ13Ccarb. In the open shelf, δ13Ccarb profile of the Songlin section remains almost constant (-3 to -4‰), while the δ13Ccarb of the Jiulongwan section records a negative excursion, decreasing from -3.5‰ to -7‰. δ13Ccarb of cap carbonates deposited in the slope environment does not show stable stratigraphic trend. In the basin environment, δ13Ccarb demonstrates a sharp decline in the middle part of cap carbonates to the nadir value of ~-11‰. The negative δ13Ccarb excursion is best interpreted in terms of oxidation of dissolved organic carbon (DOC), thus recording a pulse of ocean oxidation during cap carbonate precipitation. Clearly absence of negative δ13Ccarb excursion in all slope and most open shelf sections may imply that such oxidation event was not ubiquitous in the Yangtze Platform. We speculate that the renewed thermohaline circulation during deglaciation brought oxic surface water into ocean interior, which oxidized the basin environment of the Yangtze Platform. However, the deglacial thermohaline circulation was not strong enough to cause complete oxidation of the ocean. The sporadic oxidation in the open shelf, on the other hand, might result from the terrestrial influx of oxidant from postglacial continental weathering. Our study suggests that ocean oxidation, though sporadic, might have occurred during cap carbonate precipitation, and predated the first appearance of putative animal embryos.

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Precambrian Research

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