Articles | Volume 8, issue 5
Research article
20 Sep 2012
Research article |  | 20 Sep 2012

"OAE 3" – regional Atlantic organic carbon burial during the Coniacian–Santonian

M. Wagreich

Abstract. The Coniacian–Santonian time interval is the inferred time of oceanic anoxic event 3 (OAE 3), the last of the Cretaceous OAEs. A detailed look on the temporal and spatial distribution of organic-rich deposits attributed to OAE 3 suggests that black shale occurrences are restricted to the equatorial to mid-latitudinal Atlantic and adjacent basins, shelves and epicontinental seas like parts of the Caribbean, the Maracaibo Basin and the Western Interior Basin, and are largely absent in the Tethys, the North Atlantic, the southern South Atlantic, and the Pacific. Here, oxic bottom waters prevailed as indicated by the widespread occurrence of red deep-marine CORBs (Cretaceous Oceanic Red Beds). Widespread CORB sedimentation started during the Turonian after Oceanic Anoxic Event 2 (OAE 2) except in the Atlantic realm where organic-rich strata continue up to the Santonian. The temporal distribution of black shales attributed to OAE 3 indicates that organic-rich strata do not define a single and distinct short-time event, but are distributed over a longer time span and occur in different basins during different times. This suggests intermittent and regional anoxic conditions from the Coniacian to the Santonian. A comparison of time-correlated high-resolution δ13C curves for this interval indicates several minor positive excursions of up to 0.5‰, probably as a result of massive organic carbon burial cycles in the Atlantic. Regional wind-induced upwelling and restricted deep basins may have contributed to the development of anoxia during a time interval of widespread oxic conditions, thus highlighting the regional character of inferred OAE 3 as regional Atlantic event(s).