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Climatic and oceanic changes during the Middle-Late Ordovician transition in the Tarim Basin, NW China and implications for the Great Ordovician Biodiversification Event

Liu, Mu, Chen, Daizhao, Zhou, Xiqiang, Yuan, Wei, Jiang, Maosheng, Liu, Lijing
Palaeogeography, palaeoclimatology, palaeoecology 2019 v.514 pp. 522-535
Ordovician period, aluminum, barium, basins, global cooling, global warming, greenhouse gases, isotopes, mercury, seawater, shale, strontium, volcanic activity, China
The Middle-Late Ordovician transition (Darriwilian to Sandbian Age) witnessed a major pulse of the Great Ordovician Biodiversification Event (GOBE) and distinctive oceanic geochemical fluctuations, such as coeval negative C and Sr isotope excursions. In this study, investigations into geochemical variations, notably the Hg abundance (or Hg/TOC), have been carried upon the organic-rich black shale of the Middle-Upper Ordovician Saergan Formation to unravel the causes of this pulse. Based on these data, three phases were identified. Phase 1 (0 to 3 m) is characterized by rising Hg/TOC (up to 138 ppb/wt%) and Ti/Al values as well as high CIAcorr (corrected chemical index of alteration) values (68.9–72.3) with negligible enrichment of redox sensitive elements (RSE) and nutrient elements (e.g. U ≤ 5.2 ppm, V ≤ 153 ppm, Mo ≤ 1.8 ppm, P2O5 ≤ 0.2%), suggesting intensified volcanism, which could have emitted significant amounts of greenhouse gases, thereby leading to climate warming. In contrast, Phase 2 (3 to 11 m) is characterized by decreasing Hg/TOC and Ti/Al ratios, relatively low though slightly fluctuating CIAcorr values, generally depleted in RSE (except moderately enriched U up to 14.6 ppm) and increased P/Al and Ba/Al ratios, implying weakening volcanic activity and subsequent climate cooling and the potential for improved seawater ventilation as a result of oceanic upwelling. Phase 3 (Sandbian Age: 11–13 m) witnessed continuous decrease in Hg/TOC ratio, an increase in Ti/Al and CIAcorr values, fairly low values of RSE enrichment and P/Al and Ba/Al ratios, indicating recurrent climate warming, and the potential for slowed oceanic circulation and attenuated upwelling of nutrient-rich deep waters onto the shallow shelf. These changes could have diminished bioproductivity and organic output onto the seafloor. This study offers insights into volcanic-climatic-oceanic interactions during a major pulse of the GOBE around the Middle-Late Ordovician transition while black shales were extensively deposited.