Terrestrial organic carbon isotopic composition (δ13Corg) and environmental perturbations linked to Early Jurassic volcanism: Evidence from the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau of China

Jing Lu*, Kai Zhou, Minfang Yang, Yvette Eley, Longyi Shao, Jason Hilton

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


The Early Jurassic break-up of Pangea and the formation of the Central Atlantic Ocean are associated with changes to the atmosphere, climate, and environment, as recorded in marine carbonates from the western Tethys Ocean. However, the expression of these global changes in terrestrial successions is less well known. To better understand terrestrial-response, we investigated organic carbon isotope composition (δ13Corg), weathering trends and geochemistry in Lower Jurassic lacustrine strata in the Qaidam Basin, China, on the northern margin of the eastern Tethys Ocean. Four negative δ13Corg carbon isotope excursions are identified in lacustrine black shales during the Pliensbachian to early Toarcian stages. These negative excursions correspond to the early Pliensbachian Warming Interval, the Subnodonus Negative Event at the beginning of the late Pliensbachian, the Pliensbachian–Toarcian Boundary Event, and the early Toarcian Oceanic Anoxia Event (T-OAE), respectively, well documented in western Tethys Ocean successions. In our terrestrial successions from the Qaidam Basin, the first three events occurred under relatively warm and humid climates associated with enhanced weathering, lake transgression, and the prevalence of swamp environments. In contrast, the T-OAE was a period of intense warming and arid climate, expressed by the deposition of red beds, a hiatus in coal deposition, a sharp reduction in plant diversity, and a floristic turnover in palynoflora. Our findings show that each negative excursion is associated with peaks in mercury and nickel concentrations, supporting the hypothesis that magma intrusion into organic-rich rocks and accompanying the volcanic eruption was responsible.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103331
JournalGlobal and Planetary Change
Publication statusPublished - 25 Sept 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank the financial support from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grants. 41472131 , 41772161 ), NERC ( NE/P013724/1 ), National Science and Technology Major Project (Award 2017ZX05009-002 ), and New Century Excellent Talents Fund of Chinese Ministry of Education (Award 2013102050020 ). We thank Paul Wignall and Howard Falcon-Lang for reviewing the manuscript.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020

Copyright 2020 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Black shale
  • Early Jurassic
  • East Tethys
  • Organic carbon isotopic composition
  • Pangea
  • Terrestrial Qaidam Basin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Oceanography


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