Uncovering the Neoproterozoic Carbon Cycle

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Uncovering the Neoproterozoic Carbon Cycle

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Title: Uncovering the Neoproterozoic Carbon Cycle
Author: Johnston, David T; Macdonald, Francis Alexander; Gill, B; Hoffman, Paul; Schrag, Daniel P.

Note: Order does not necessarily reflect citation order of authors.

Citation: Johnston, D. T., F. A. Macdonald, B. C. Gill, P. F. Hoffman, and D. P. Schrag. 2012. Uncovering the Neoproterozoic Carbon Cycle. Nature 483: 320–323.
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Abstract: Interpretations of major climatic and biological events in Earth history are, in large part, derived from the stable carbon isotope records of carbonate rocks and sedimentary organic matter1,2. Neoproterozoic carbonate records contain unusualand large negative isotopic anomalies within long periods (10–100 million years) characterized by d13C in carbonate (d13Ccarb) enriched to more than +5 per mil. Classically, d13Ccarb is interpreted as a metric of the relative fraction of carbon buried as organic matter in marine sediments2–4, which can be linked to oxygen accumulation through the stoichiometry of primary production3,5. If a change in the isotopic composition of marine dissolved inorganic carbon is responsible for these excursions, it is expected that records of d13Ccarb and d13C in organic carbon (d13Corg) will covary, offset by the fractionation imparted by primary production5. The documentation of several Neoproterozoic d13Ccarb excursions that are decoupled from d13Corg, however, indicates that other mechanisms6–8 may account for these excursions. Here we present d13C data from Mongolia, northwest Canada and Namibia that capture multiple large-amplitude (over 10 per mil) negative carbon isotope anomalies, and use these data in a new quantitative mixing model to examine the behaviour of the Neoproterozoic carbon cycle. We find that carbonate and organic carbon isotope data from Mongolia and Canada are tightly coupled through multiple d13Ccarb excursions, quantitatively ruling out previously suggested alternative explanations, such as diagenesis7,8 or the presence and terminal oxidation of a large marine dissolved organic carbon reservoir6. Our data from Namibia, which do not record isotopic covariance, can be explained by simple mixing with a detrital flux of organic matter. We thus interpret d13Ccarb anomalies as recording a primary perturbation to the surface carbon cycle. This interpretation requires the revisiting of models linking drastic isotope excursions to deep ocean oxygenation and the opening of environments capable of supporting animals9–11.
Published Version: 10.1038/nature10854
Terms of Use: This article is made available under the terms and conditions applicable to Other Posted Material, as set forth at http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:dash.current.terms-of-use#LAA
Citable link to this page: http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:12748671
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