Large-igneous-province volcanic activity during the mid-Cretaceous triggered a global-scale episode of reduced marine oxygen levels known as Oceanic Anoxic Event 2 approximately 94.5 million years ago. It has been hypothesized that this geologically rapid degassing of volcanic carbon dioxide altered seawater carbonate chemistry, affecting marine ecosystems, geochemical cycles and sedimentation. Here we report on two sites drilled by the International Ocean Discovery Program offshore of southwest Australia that exhibit clear evidence for suppressed pelagic carbonate sedimentation in the form of a stratigraphic interval barren of carbonate minerals, recording ocean acidification during the event. We then use the osmium isotopic composition of bulk sediments to directly link this protracted ~600 kyr shoaling of the marine calcite compensation depth to the onset of volcanic activity. This decrease in marine pH was prolonged by biogeochemical feedbacks in highly productive regions where elevated heterotrophic respiration added carbon dioxide to the water column. A compilation of mid-Cretaceous marine stratigraphic records reveals a contemporaneous decrease of sedimentary carbonate content at continental slope sites globally. Thus, we contend that changes in marine carbonate chemistry are a primary ecological stress and important consequence of rapid emission of carbon dioxide during many large-igneous-province eruptions in the geologic past.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)