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Durham University

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Publication details for Dr Darren R. Gröcke

Them II, T.R., Gill, B.C., Caruthers, A.H., Gröcke, D.R., Tulsky, E.T., Martindale, R.C., Poulton, T.P. & Smith, P.L. (2017). High-resolution carbon isotope records of the Toarcian Oceanic Anoxic Event (Early Jurassic) from North America and implications for the global drivers of the Toarcian carbon cycle. Earth and Planetary Science Letters 459: 118-126.

Author(s) from Durham


The Mesozoic Era experienced several instances of abrupt environmental change that are associated with instabilities in the climate, reorganizations of the global carbon cycle, and elevated extinction rates. Often during these perturbations, oxygen-deficient conditions developed in the oceans resulting in the widespread deposition of organic-rich sediments — these events are referred to as Oceanic Anoxic Events or OAEs. Such events have been linked to massive injections of greenhouse gases into the ocean–atmosphere system by transient episodes of voluminous volcanism and the destabilization of methane clathrates within marine environments. Nevertheless, uncertainty surrounds the specific environmental drivers and feedbacks that occurred during the OAEs that caused perturbations in the carbon cycle; this is particularly true of the Early Jurassic Toarcian OAE (∼183.1 Ma). Here, we present biostratigraphically constrained carbon isotope data from western North America (Alberta and British Columbia, Canada) to better assess the global extent of the carbon cycle perturbations. We identify the large negative carbon isotope excursion associated with the OAE along with high-frequency oscillations and steps within the onset of this excursion. We propose that these high-frequency carbon isotope excursions reflect changes to the global carbon cycle and also that they are related to the production and release of greenhouse gases from terrestrial environments on astronomical timescales. Furthermore, increased terrestrial methanogenesis should be considered an important climatic feedback during Ocean Anoxic Events and other similar events in Earth history after the proliferation of land plants.