Multiple early Eocene hyperthermal events: Their lithologic expressions and environmental consequences
Nicolo, Micah John
Dickens, Gerald R.
Doctor of Philosophy
A gradual rise in Earth's surface temperature marks a transition from the late Paleocene to the early Eocene ca. 58-51 Ma. Paleocene/Eocene boundary (∼55.5 Ma) sediments deposited in the midst of this slow warming ubiquitously reveal evidence for a massive isotopically light carbon injection and an associated rapid but transient global warming event, or hyperthermal, that has been termed the Paleocene Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM) and attributed to a carbon injection from multiple potential sources. The PETM has gained importance over the past two decades as a potential geologic analog to the modern anthropogenic carbon injection and climate change. However significant questions surrounding the nature of the carbon injection at the onset of the PETM remain. The Clarence River valley, located in the Marlborough region, South Island, New Zealand, contains a series of outcrops of lithified late Paleocene to early Eocene sediments originally deposited on a paleo-slope margin. Within these sections, the Lower Limestone Member of the Amuri Limestone Formation records the interval of interest. A Lower Limestone prominent recessed unit consisting of multiple marl-rich beds and recording a pronounced negative carbon isotopic excursion (CIE) marks the PETM at sections that have been bisected by tributaries to the Clarence River, including Mead Stream and Dee Stream. Here I detail and discuss Clarence valley Lower Limestone sections and relate these records to global trends with an emphasis on adding constraints to the PETM carbon injection. Specifically, I document the lithologic and carbon isotopic expression of the PETM and two younger paired sets of early Eocene events that, similar to the Mead Stream and Dee Stream PETM sections, reveal negative CIEs and expanded marl-rich units coincident to identical CIEs and condensed carbonate dissolution horizons in deep-sea sections. I further quantify the abundance of bioturbating macrofauna trace fossils through the PETM at both Mead Stream and Dee Stream and argue that New Zealand margin intermediate waters became hypoxic precisely coincident to the PETM carbon injection. In concert, these findings suggest a PETM carbon addition mechanism capable of both diminishing intermediate water dissolved oxygen and of repeated early Eocene injections.
New Zealand; Eocene; Bioturbation; Hyperthermal events; Paleocene eocene thermal maximum