Ocean acidification and photic‐zone anoxia at the Toarcian Oceanic Anoxic Event: insights from the Adriatic Carbonate Platform

Severe global climate change led to the deterioration of environmental conditions in the oceans during the Toarcian Stage of the Jurassic. Carbonate platforms of the Western Tethys Ocean exposed in Alpine Tethyan mountain ranges today offer insight into this period of environmental upheaval. In addition to informing understanding of climate change in deep time, the effect of ancient carbon cycle perturbations on carbonate platforms have important implications for anthropogenic climate change; the patterns of early Toarcian environmental deterioration are similar to those occurring in modern oceans. This study focuses on the record of the early Toarcian Oceanic Anoxic Event (ca 183.1 Ma) in outcrops of the north‐west Adriatic Carbonate Platform in Slovenia. Amidst environmental deterioration, the north‐west Adriatic Platform abruptly transitioned from a healthy, shallow‐water environment with diverse metazoan ecosystems to a partially drowned setting with low diversity biota and diminished sedimentation. An organic carbon‐isotope excursion of ‐2.2‰ reflects the massive injection of CO2 into the ocean‐atmosphere system and marks the stratigraphic position of the Toarcian Oceanic Anoxic Event. A prominent dissolution horizon and suppressed carbonate deposition on the platform are interpreted to reflect transient shoaling of the carbonate compensation depth to unprecedentedly shallow levels as the dramatic influx of CO2 overwhelmed the ocean’s buffering capacity, causing ocean acidification. Trace metal geochemistry and palaeoecology highlight water column deoxygenation, including the development of photic‐zone anoxia, preceding and during the Toarcian Oceanic Anoxic Event. Ocean acidification and reduced oxygen levels likely had a profoundly negative effect on carbonate‐producing biota and growth of the Adriatic Platform. These effects are consistent with the approximate doubling of the concentration of CO2 in the ocean‐atmosphere system from pre‐Toarcian Oceanic Anoxic Event levels, which has previously been linked to a volcanic triggering mechanism. Mercury enrichments discovered in this study support a temporal and genetic link between volcanism, the Toarcian Oceanic Anoxic Event and the carbonate crisis.

Ettinger N. P., Larson T. E., Kerans C., Thibodeau A. M., Hattori K. E., Kacur S. M. & Martindale R. C., in press. Ocean acidification and photic‐zone anoxia at the Toarcian Oceanic Anoxic Event: insights from the Adriatic Carbonate Platform. Sedimentology. Article (subscription required).

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