Carbonate platform evidence of ocean acidification at the onset of the early Toarcian oceanic anoxic event

The early Toarcian oceanic anoxic event (Early Jurassic;∼183 Myr ago) is associated with one of the largest negative carbon isotope excursion (CIE) in the whole Phanerozoic (3–7‰). Estimates of the magnitude and rate of CO2 injection in the ocean–atmosphere system are compatible with a scenario of ocean acidification. Many carbonate platforms drowned in the Pliensbachian, well before the early Toarcian event. In this paper we test the hypothesis of surface water ocean acidification by presenting data from a resilient carbonate platform: the Apennine Carbonate Platform of southern Italy.

The studied sections document a dramatic shift of the carbonate factory from massive biocalcification to chemical precipitation. Lithiotis bivalves and calcareous algae (Palaeodasycladus mediterraneus), which were the most prolific carbonate producers of Pliensbachian carbonate platforms, disappear during the first phase of the early Toarcian CIE, before the most depleted values are reached. We discuss the local versus supraregional significance of this shift and propose a scenario involving abrupt decline of carbonate saturation, forced by CO2 release at the beginning of the early Toarcian CIE, followed by a calcification overshoot, driven by the recovery of ocean alkalinity. Attribution of the demise of carbonate platform hypercalcifiers to ocean acidification is supported by palaeophysiology and reinforced by experimental data on the detrimental effects of ocean acidification on recent shellfishes and calcareous algae.

Trecalli A., Spangenberg J., Adatte T., Föllmi K. B. & Parente M., 2012. Carbonate platform evidence of ocean acidification at the onset of the early Toarcian oceanic anoxic event. Earth and Planetary Science Letters 357-358: 214-225. Article (subscription required).

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