Permian lysocline shoaling and ocean acidification along NW Pangea led to carbonate eradication and chert expansion

The Upper Carboniferous to Upper Permian deposits of the Sverdrup Basin (Arctic Canada) record a transition from carbonate to silica dominated shallow shelf ecosystems. Chert expansion started during the latest Carboniferous in distal deep-water slope environments when prolific warm-water, photozoan carbonate factories developed on the adjacent shallow shelves. A shift to heterozoan factories during the Sakmarian–Artinskian was caused by the introduction of cooler water in response to paleoceanographic changes along NW Pangea. By Kungurian time, heterozoan carbonate factories narrowed substantially while hyalosponge factories had expanded well into the mid shelves. A brief return to widespread heterozoan carbonate sedimentation occurred during the Wordian, followed by further encroachment of shallow shelves by biosiliceous factories during the Capitanian and Wuchiapingian. A major drop in relative rates of carbonate sediment accumulation with time suggests both carbonate and biosiliceous factories were under considerable stress prior to the Late Permian Extinction event. It is proposed that Sverdrup Basin waters became progressively more acidic in response to build up of atmospheric CO2 throughout the Permian which led to a gradual shoaling of the lysocline and the calcite compensation depth, which was amplified by upwelling along the northwestern margin of Pangea. Ocean acidification initiated in response to amalgamation of the Pangea supercontinent which inhibited the silicate weathering-response through development of thick protective soil blankets. A temperature shock associated with the extinction event led to a major fall of the lysocline allowing carbonates to resume accumulation in spite of low pH conditions. The subsequent die off of terrestrial vegetation, stripping of soil cover, widespread continental erosion and repeated exposures of fresh rock surfaces associated with a major base level shift allowed silicate weathering to restart and drive oceans back to carbonate saturation.

Beauchamp B. & Grasby S. E., in press. Permian lysocline shoaling and ocean acidification along NW Pangea led to carbonate eradication and chert expansion. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology. doi: 10.1016/j.palaeo.2012.06.014. Article (subscription required).

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