Carbon isotope and mammal recovery from extreme greenhouse warming at the Paleocene–Eocene boundary in astronomically-calibrated fluvial strata, Bighorn Basin, Wyoming, USA

Bas van der Meulen, Philip D. Gingerich, Lucas J. Lourens, Niels Meijer, Sjors van Broekhuizen, Sverre van Ginneken, Hemmo A. Abels

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Massive addition of isotopically-depleted carbon to the ocean and atmosphere caused a carbon isotope excursion (CIE) and global greenhouse warming during the Paleocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM) circa 56 million years ago. The body of the CIE is followed by a recovery interval that is key to understanding Earth's capacity for carbon uptake, mechanisms of carbon uptake, and biotic responses following an extreme greenhouse warming event. Expanded terrestrial stratigraphic sections in the Bighorn Basin of Wyoming provide exceptionally high-resolution records of the CIE and can be linked directly to the mammalian fossil record. Here, we provide carbon isotope records of unprecedented resolution measured on in-situ pedogenic carbonate nodules in two parallel 8-km-spaced sections of upper Paleocene and lower Eocene fluvial sediments in the northern Bighorn Basin. We find consistent precession-driven sedimentary cycles in the two sections. Cycle thicknesses show significant lateral, and thus vertical, variation, demonstrating that astronomical age models constructed for fluvial successions require detailed sedimentary facies analysis of parallel sites. Plotting the high-resolution carbon isotope records in time using our astronomical age model for the correlated sections indicates a CIE body duration of 101 ± 9 kyr. The CIE shows an initial recovery step of +2.7 ± 1.0‰. This step occurs across the single, well-developed paleosol marker bed known as Purple-4, which represents a time interval of up to 15 kyr. The rapidity of recovery at the end of the CIE body is remarkable in light of existing hypotheses for carbon removal from the ocean–atmosphere system. Concurrent mammal finds show that the transition from faunal zone Wa-0 to faunal zone Wa-1 occurred in two steps, with a transitional Wa-R fauna preceding the CIE initial recovery step and Wa-1 fauna following the step.

Original languageEnglish
Article number116044
Number of pages11
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
Volume534
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Keywords

  • age model
  • Bighorn Basin
  • carbon isotope excursion
  • initial recovery step
  • mammalian evolution
  • Paleocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Carbon isotope and mammal recovery from extreme greenhouse warming at the Paleocene–Eocene boundary in astronomically-calibrated fluvial strata, Bighorn Basin, Wyoming, USA'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

  • Cite this