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Formation and evolution of the Ediacaran to Lower Cambrian black shales in the Yangtze Platform, South China

Fang, Xinyan, Wu, Liangliang, Geng, Ansong, Deng, Qian
Palaeogeography, palaeoclimatology, palaeoecology 2019 v.527 pp. 87-102
Cambrian period, Cyanobacteria, Ediacaran period, basins, biomarkers, biomass, hydrocarbons, methanotrophs, petroleum, photosynthetic algae, shale, surface water, total organic carbon, China
Black shales in the Ediacaran Doushantuo Formation (predominantly from Member II, IV and equivalent strata) and the Lower Cambrian Niutitang Formation (or equivalents) occur widely in the Yangtze Platform, South China. These black shales could provide sufficient hydrocarbons for the petroleum system in this region. However, biomarker parameters have proven invalid in the assessment of petroleum resources because of the high thermal maturity. Therefore, it is necessary to study the characteristics and formation mechanisms of these two black shales. This study analyzed redox-sensitive elements, total organic carbon (TOC) contents, and carbon isotopic compositions of organic matter in four continuous sedimentary successions including the two investigated shales in the Yangtze Platform (namely Jiulongwan on the inner shelf, Songlin in an intra-shelf lagoon, Dongkanshang on the upper slope, and Fengtan in the basin). Combined with other previously reported five sections, the redox conditions of sedimentary waters and marine paleoproductivity of the Ediacaran to Lower Cambrian black shales in the Yangtze Platform were discussed and compared. The results showed that the redox conditions of the Early Cambrian in the study area were similar to those of the Ediacaran Doushantuo period, which were oxic-suboxic at surface water, and anoxic in the deep with the occurrence of euxinic conditions. However, the euxinic conditions in the deep waters were distributed more widely in the Early Cambrian than in the Ediacaran period. The source of organic matter in the Doushantuo Formation was dominated by algae in the shallow-water platform and the shelf-margin areas, while chemoautotrophic/methanotrophic biomass may also have contributed in the intra-shelf lagoon and deep-water basin areas. In contrast, the organic matter of the Niutitang Formation was mainly contributed by the chemoautotrophic/methanotrophic biomass, with a minor contribution by photosynthetic algae and cyanobacteria. During the Doushantuo period, the input of terrigenous clastic materials was low, resulting in the enrichment of organic matter and formation of organic-rich black shale in the Yangtze Platform over a long geological time period. Compared to the Doushantuo period, the shorter sedimentation time and the higher deposition rate during the Early Cambrian produced a thicker and higher-quality Niutitang Formation source rock widely distributed in the Yangtze Platform.