Ocean circulation in the Toarcian (Early Jurassic), a key control on deoxygenation and carbon burial on the European Shelf

Ruvalcaba Baroni, Itzel; Pohl, Alexandre; van Helmond, Niels A. G. M.; Papadomanolaki, Nina M.; Coe, Angela L.; Cohen, Anthony S.; van de Schootbrugge, Bas; Donnadieu, Yannick and Slomp, Caroline P. (2018). Ocean circulation in the Toarcian (Early Jurassic), a key control on deoxygenation and carbon burial on the European Shelf. Paleoceanography and Paleoclimatology, 33(9) pp. 994–1012.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1029/2018pa003394


The Toarcian Oceanic Anoxic Event (T-OAE, ∼183 My) was a long-lasting episode of ocean deoxygenation during the Early Jurassic. The event is related to a period of global warming and characterized by major perturbations to the hydrological and carbon cycles with high rates of organic matter burial in shelf seas. Ocean circulation during the Toarcian and its influence on marine biogeochemical cycles are still not fully understood. Here,we assess the spatial extent of anoxia in the NW Tethys Ocean during the T-OAE, the relationship with ocean circulation and the impact on organic carbon burial, using new and existing sedimentary records from the European Epicontinental Shelf (EES) in combination with general circulation model results. We demonstrate that bottom waters on the southwestern part of the shelf were mainly oxic during the T-OAE, while those in the northeastern basins were mostly anoxic or even sulfidic. Results for two ocean-atmosphere models (FOAM and MITgcm) suggest the presence of a strong clockwise gyre over the EES, which brought oxygenated equatorial waters from the Tethys Ocean to the southern shelf. The northward limb of the gyre was significantly weakened due to the rough bathymetry of the northern shelf, making this relative small region highly sensitive to local ocean stratification. These sluggish ocean dynamics promoted bottom water anoxia and enhanced burial of organic carbon in the northeastern basins, which accounted for 3–5% of the total carbon extracted from the ocean-atmosphere system as recorded by the positive carbon isotope shift.

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