Multiple High-Frequency Carbon Isotope Excursions Across the Precambrian-Cambrian Boundary: Implications for Correlations and Environmental Change

Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Emily Frances Smith, Francis A Macdonald, Daniel P Schrag and Thomas Laakso, Harvard University, Earth and Planetary Sciences, Cambridge, MA, United States
The GSSP Precambrian-Cambrian boundary in Newfoundland is defined by the first appearance datum (FAD) of Treptichnus pedum, which is considered to be roughly coincident with the FAD of small shelly fossils (SSFs) and a large negative carbon isotope excursion. An association between the FAD of T. pedum and a negative carbon isotope excursion has previously been documented in Northwest Canada (Narbonne et al., 1994) and Death Valley (Corsetti and Hagadorn, 2000), and since then has been used as an chronostratigraphic marker of the boundary, particularly in siliciclastic poor sections that do not preserve T. pedum.

Here we present new high-resolution carbon isotope (δ13C ) chemostratigraphy from multiple sections in western Mongolia and the western United States that span the Ediacaran-Cambrian transition. High-resolution sampling (0.2-1 m) reveals that instead of one large negative excursion, there are multiple, high-frequency negative excursions with an overall negative trend during the latest Ediacaran. These data help to more precisely calibrate changes in the carbon cycle across the boundary as well as to highlight the potential problem of identifying the boundary with just a few negative δ13C values. We then use a simple carbon isotope box model to explore relationships between phosphorous delivery to the ocean, oxygenation, alkalinity, and turnovers in carbonate secreting organisms.

Corsetti, F.A., and Hagadorn, J.W., 2000, Precambrian-Cambrian transition: Death Valley, United States: Geology, v. 28, no. 4, p. 299-302.

Narbonne, G.M., Kaufman, A.J., and Knoll, A.H., 1994, Integrated chemostratigraphy and biostratigraphy of the Windermere Supergroup, northwestern Canada: Implications for Neoproterozoic correlations and the early evolution of animals: Geological Society of America Bulletin, v. 106, no. 10, p. 1281-1292.