Articles | Volume 12, issue 2
Research article
11 Feb 2016
Research article |  | 11 Feb 2016

Terrestrial responses of low-latitude Asia to the Eocene–Oligocene climate transition revealed by integrated chronostratigraphy

Y. X. Li, W. J. Jiao, Z. H. Liu, J. H. Jin, D. H. Wang, Y. X. He, and C. Quan

Abstract. The Paleogene sedimentary records from southern China hold important clues to the impacts of the Cenozoic climate changes on low latitudes. However, although there are extensive Paleogene terrestrial archives and some contain abundant fossils in this region, few are accurately dated or have a temporal resolution adequate to decipher climate changes. Here, we present a detailed stratigraphic and paleomagnetic study of a fossiliferous late Paleogene succession in the Maoming Basin, Guangdong Province. The succession consists of oil shale of the Youganwo Formation (Fm) in the lower part and the overlying sandstone-dominated Huangniuling Fm in the upper part. Fossil records indicate that the age of the succession possibly spans the late Eocene to the Oligocene. Both the Youganwo Fm and the overlying Huangniuling Fm exhibit striking sedimentary rhythms, and spectral analysis of the depth series of magnetic susceptibility of the Youganwo Fm reveals dominant sedimentary cycles at orbital frequency bands. The transition from the Youganwo oil shale to the overlying Huangniuling sandstones is conformable and represents a major depositional environmental change from a lacustrine to a deltaic environment. Integrating the magnetostratigraphic, lithologic, and fossil data allows establishing a substantially refined chronostratigraphic framework that places the major depositional environmental change at 33.88 Ma, coinciding with the Eocene–Oligocene climate transition (EOT) at  ∼ 33.7 to  ∼ 33.9 Ma. We suggest that the transition from a lacustrine to deltaic environment in the Maoming Basin represents terrestrial responses to the EOT and indicates prevailing drying conditions in low-latitude regions during the global cooling at EOT.

Short summary
An integrated litho-, bio-, cyclo-, and magnetostratigraphy constrains the onset of a depositional environmental change from a lacustrine to a deltaic environment in the Maoming Basin, China, at 33.88 Ma. This coincides with the global cooling during the Eocene-Oligocene transition (EOT) at ~ 33.7–33.9 Ma. This change represents terrestrial responses of low-latitude Asia to the EOT. The greatly refined chronology permits detailed examination of the late Paleogene climate change in southeast Asia.