Springer Nature is making SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 research free. View research | View latest news | Sign up for updates

The onset of the major glaciation of the LPIA: record from South China

  • 106 Accesses


The beginning of the Late Paleozoic Ice Age was characterized by localized events with small ice depocenters occurring in South America and a series of cyclic shallow-water limestones in far-field regions, in late Visean to Serpukhovian. This paper documents two topmost Visean–Serpukhovian sections in Guangxi, South China: a stromatolite-bearing deep-water succession in Helv village and a shallow-water succession in Dujie village. Seventeen microfacies types have been recognized and grouped into six microfacies associations. The vertical evolution of the microfacies associations from deep-water to shallow-water depositional environments in both sections indicate a major relative sea-level fall in the latest Visean. The repetitive successions comprising different morphological stromatolites in Helv section and the cyclic alternation of subtidal and peritidal facies in Dujie section imply high-frequency sea-level fluctuations during latest Visean to Serpukhovian, most likely eustatic in origin. The carbon isotope data of Dujie limestone exhibit a pronounced positive δ13C excursion with ± 4.3‰ in the peritidal deposits. This shift is interpreted as the result of enhanced organic carbon burial in other regions and depletion of the ocean in light carbon. The widespread coeval cyclicity occurring in settings in South China, Western Europe, and North America is most likely the results of glacio-eustatic sea-level fluctuations, possibly with local influences of tectonic movements. This pattern is interpreted to represent the expression of the onset of the major glaciation during the LPIA in low-latitudinal successions.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5
Fig. 6
Fig. 7
Fig. 8
Fig. 9
Fig. 10
Fig. 11
Fig. 12
Fig. 13
Fig. 14
Fig. 15


  1. Ahern JP, Fielding CR (2019) Onset of the Late Paleozoic glacioeustatic signal: a stratigraphic record from the paleotropical, oil-shale-bearing Big Snowy Trough of Central Montana, USA. J Sediment Res 89:761–783. https://doi.org/10.2110/jsr.2019.44

  2. Altermann W (2008) Accretion, trapping and binding of sediment in Archean stromatolites—morphological expression of the antiquity of life. Space Sci Rev 135:55–79

  3. Assereto R, Folk RL (1976) Brick-like texture and radial rays in Triassic pisolites of Lombardy, Italy: a clue to distinguish ancient aragonitic pisolites. Sed Geol 16:205–222

  4. Assereto RLAM, Kendall CGSC (1977) Nature, origin and classification of peritidal tepee structures and related breccias. Sedimentology 24:153–210

  5. Bathurst RGC (1966) Boring algae, micrite envelopes and lithification of molluscan biosparites. Geol J 5:15–32

  6. Berra F (2007) Sedimentation in shallow to deep water carbonate environments across a sequence boundary: effects of a fall in sea-level on the evolution of a carbonate system (Ladinian–Carnian, eastern Lombardy, Italy). Sedimentology 54:721–735

  7. Bishop JW, Montañez IP, Gulbranson EL, Brenckle PL (2009) The onset of mid-Carboniferous glacio-eustasy: sedimentologic and diagenetic constraints, Arrow Canyon, Nevada. Palaeogeogr Palaeoclimatol Palaeoecol 276:217–243

  8. Bishop JW, Montañez IP, Osleger DA (2010) Dynamic Carboniferous climate change, Arrow Canyon, Nevada. Geosphere 6:1–34

  9. Blakey R (2006) Mollewide Plate Tectonic Maps of Phanerzoic World Wide. http://jan.ucc.nau.edu/~rcb7/. Accessed 3 Sept 2018

  10. Blomeier DPG, Reijmer JJG (2002) Facies architecture of an early Jurassic carbonate platform slope (Jbel Bou Dahar, High Atlas, Morocco). J Sediment Res 72:462–475

  11. Bonorino GG (1992) Carboniferous glaciation in Gondwana. Evidence for grounded marine ice and continental glaciation in southwestern Argentina. Palaeogeogr Palaeoclimatol Palaeoecol 91:363–375

  12. Brezinski DK, Cecil CB, Skema VW, Stamm R (2008) Late Devonian glacial deposits from the eastern United States signal an end of the mid-Paleozoic warm period. Palaeogeogr Palaeoclimatol Palaeoecol 268:143–151

  13. Bruckschen P, Veizer J (1997) Oxygen and carbon isotopic composition of Dinantian brachiopods: paleoenvironmental implications for the lower Carboniferous of western Europe. Palaeogeogr Palaeoclimatol Palaeoecol 132:243–264

  14. Bruckschen P, Oesmann S, Veizer J (1999) Isotope stratigraphy of the European Carboniferous: proxy signals for ocean chemistry, climate and tectonics. Chem Geol 161:127–163

  15. Buggisch W, Joachimski MM, Sevastopulo G, Morrow JR (2008) Mississippian δ13Ccarb and conodont apatite δ18O records—Their relation to the late Palaeozoic glaciation. Palaeogeogr Palaeoclimatol Palaeoecol 268:273–292

  16. Campion A, Maloof A, Schoene B, Oleynik S, Sanz-López J, Blanco-Ferrera S, Merino-Tomé O, Bahamonde JR, Fernández L-P (2018) Constraining the timing and amplitude of early Serpukhovian glacioeustasy with a continuous carbonate record in Northern Spain. Geochem Geophys Geosyst 19:2647–2660. https://doi.org/10.1029/2017GC007369

  17. Chen J, Montañez IP, Qi Y, Wang X, Wang Q, Lin W (2016) Coupled sedimentary and δ13C records of late Mississippian platform-to-slope successions from South China: insight into δ13C chemostratigraphy. Palaeogeogr Palaeoclimatol Palaeoecol 448:162–178

  18. Chen J, Sheng Q, Hu K, Yao L, Lin W, Montañez IP, Tian X, Qi Y, Wang X (2018) Late Mississippian glacio-eustasy recorded in the eastern Paleo-Tethys Ocean (South China). Palaeogeogr Palaeoclimatol Palaeoecol. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.palaeo.2018.07.021

  19. Dalrymple RW, Choi K (2007) Morphologic and facies trends through the fluvial–marine transition in tide-dominated depositional systems: a schematic framework for environmental and sequence-stratigraphic interpretation. Earth Sci Rev 81:135–174

  20. Devleeschouwer X, Herbosch A, Préat A (2002) Microfacies, sequence stratigraphy and clay mineralogy of a condensed deep-water section around the Frasnian/Famennian boundary (Steinbruch Schmidt, Germany). Palaeogeogr Palaeoclimatol Palaeoecol 181:171–193

  21. Dvorjanin ES, Samoyluk AP, Egurnova MG, Zaykovsky NY, Podladchikov YY, Belt FJGVD, Boer PLD (1996) Sedimentary cycles and paleogeography of the Dnieper Donets Basin during the late Visean–Serpukhovian based on multiscale analysis of well logs. Tectonophysics 268:169–187

  22. Dyer B, Maloof AC, Higgins JA (2015) Glacioeustasy, meteoric diagenesis, and the carbon cycle during the Middle Carboniferous. Geochem Geophys Geosyst 16:1–17

  23. Egenhoff SO, Peterhänsel A, Bechstädt T, Zühlke R, Grötsch J (1999) Facies architecture of an isolated carbonate platform: tracing the cycles of the Latemàr (middle Triassic, northern Italy). Sedimentology 46:893–912

  24. Feng ZZ, Yang YQ, Bao ZD, Jin ZK, Zhang HQ, Wu XH, Qi DL (1998) Microfacies paleogeography of the Carboniferous in South China. Geological Publishing House, Beijing (in Chinese)

  25. Feng ZZ, Yang YQ, Bao ZD (1999) Microfacies palaeogeography of the Carboniferous in South China. J Palaeogeogr 1:75–86 (in Chinese, with English abstract)

  26. Fielding CR, Frank TD (2015) Onset of the glacioeustatic signal recording late Palaeozoic Gondwanan ice growth: new data from palaeotropical East Fife, Scotland. Palaeogeogr Palaeoclimatol Palaeoecol 426:121–138

  27. Fielding CR, Frank TD, Birgenheier LP, Rygel MC, Jones AT, Roberts J (2008a) Stratigraphic imprint of the late Paleozoic ice age in eastern Australia: a record of alternating glacial and nonglacial climate regime. J Geol Soc 165:129–140

  28. Fielding CR, Frank TD, Birgenheier LP, Rygel MC, Jones AT, Roberts J (2008b) Stratigraphic record and facies associations of the late Paleozoic ice age in eastern Australia (New South Wales and Queensland). Geol Soc Am Spec Pap 441:41–57

  29. Fielding CR, Frank TD, Isbell JL (2008c) The late Paleozoic ice age—a review of current understanding and synthesis of global climate patterns. Geol Soc Am Spec Pap 441:343–354

  30. Flügel E (2004) Microfacies of carbonate rocks: analysis, interpretation and application. Springer, Berlin

  31. Garzanti E, Sciunnach D (1997) Early Carboniferous onset of Gondwanian glaciation and Neo-tethyan rifting in South Tibet. Earth Planet Sci Lett 148:359–365

  32. George AD (1999) Deep-water stromatolites, Canning Basin, northwestern Australia. Palaios 14:493–505

  33. Gómez-Pérez I (2003) An early Jurassic deep-water stromatolitic bioherm related to possible methane seepage (Los Molles Formation, Neuquén, Argentina). Palaeogeogr Palaeoclimatol Palaeoecol 201:21–49

  34. González CR (1990) Development of the late Paleozoic glaciations of the South American Gondwana in western Argentina. Palaeogeogr Palaeoclimatol Palaeoecol 79:275–287

  35. Grossman EL, Yancey TE, Jones TE, Bruckschen P, Chuvashov B, Mazzullo SJ, Mii HS (2008) Glaciation, aridification, and carbon sequestration in the Permo-Carboniferous: the isotopic record from low latitudes. Palaeogeogr Palaeoclimatol Palaeoecol 268:222–233

  36. Gulbranson EL, Montañez IP, Schmitz MD, Limarino CO, Isbell JL, Marenssi SA, Crowley JL (2010) High-precision U-Pb calibration of Carboniferous glaciation and climate history, Paganzo group, NW Argentina. Geol Soc Am Bull 122:1480–1498

  37. Hoffman P (1974) Shallow and deepwater stromatolites in lower proterozoic platform-to-basin facies change, Great Slave Lake, Canada. AAPG Bull 58:856–867

  38. Hofmann HJ (1994) Quantitative stromatolitology. J Paleontol 68:704–709

  39. Hori K, Saito Y, Zhao Q, Cheng X, Wang P, Sato Y, Li C (2001) Sedimentary facies of the tide-dominated paleo-Changjiang (Yangtze) estuary during the last transgression. Mar Geol 177:331–351

  40. Isaacson PE, Díaz-Martínez E, Grader GW, Kalvoda J, Babek O, Devuyst FX (2008) Late Devonian–earliest Mississippian glaciation in Gondwanaland and its biogeographic consequences. Palaeogeogr Palaeoclimatol Palaeoecol 268:126–142

  41. Isbell JL, Miller MF, Wolfe KL, Lenaker PA (2003) Timing of late Paleozoic glaciation in Gondwana: was glaciation responsible for the development of Northern Hemisphere cyclothems? Geol Soc Am Spec Pap 370:5–24

  42. Isbell JL, Henry LC, Gulbranson EL, Limarino CO, Fraiser ML, Koch ZJ, Ciccioli PL, Dineen AA (2012) Glacial paradoxes during the late Paleozoic ice age: evaluating the equilibrium line altitude as a control on glaciation. Gondwana Res 22:1–19

  43. Kendall CGSC, Warren J (1987) A review of the origin and setting of tepees and their associated fabrics. Sedimentology 34:1007–1027

  44. Kuang GD, Li JX, Zhong K, Su YB, Tao YB (1999) Carboniferous of Guangxi, Stratigraphy of Guangxi, China Part 2. China University of Geosciences Press, Wuhan (in Chinese)

  45. Kump LR, Arthur MA (1999) Interpreting carbon-isotope excursions: carbonates and organic matter. Chem Geol 161:181–198

  46. Lee SJ, Browne KM, Golubic S (2000) On stromatolite lamination. In: Riding RE, Awramik SM (eds) Microbial sediments. Springer, Berlin, pp 16–24

  47. Lehrmann DJ, Wan Y, Wei J, Yu YY, Xiao J (2001) Lower Triassic peritidal cyclic limestone: an example of anachronistic carbonate facies from the Great Bank of Guizhou, Nanpanjiang Basin, Guizhou province, South China. Palaeogeogr Palaeoclimatol Palaeoecol 173:103–123

  48. Li R (1997) Carboniferous sequence stratigraphy on clinothem facies at Nandan area in norhern Guangxi. J Univ Pet China 21:1–5 (In Chinese with English abstract)

  49. Limarino C, Tripaldi A, Marenssi S, Fauqué L (2006) Tectonic, sea-level, and climatic controls on late Paleozoic sedimentation in the western basins of Argentina. J S Am Earth Sci 22:205–226

  50. Liu C, Lu G, Zhang X, Zhou F, Huang X, Du Y (2014) Sedimentary characteristics and evolutionary stages in Late Paleozoic of Tian’e isolated platform in northwestern Guangxi. Geogr Rev 60:55–70 (in Chinese with English abstract)

  51. Logan BW, Rezak R, Ginsburg RN (1964) Classification and environmental significance of algal stromatolites. J Geol 72:68–83

  52. Loinaze VSP, Limarino CO, Csari SN (2010) Glacial events in Carboniferous sequences from Paganzo and Río Blanco Basins (Northwest Argentina): palynology and depositional setting. Geol Acta 8:399–418

  53. Loucks RG, Folk RL (1976) Fanlike rays of former aragonite in Permian Capitan reef pisolite. J Sediment Res 46:483–485

  54. Miao ZW, Zhang YL, Gong EP, Guan CQ, Ruanshi MX, Huang WT, Wang D (2016) Sedimentary environment and microfacies analysis of the lower Carboniferous microbial carbonates in the Dujie village, Long’an county, Guangxi. Geol Rev 62:1134–1148 (in Chinese, with English abstract)

  55. Mii HS, Grossman EL, Yancey TE (1999) Carboniferous isotope stratigraphies of North America: implications for Carboniferous paleoceanography and Mississippian glaciation. Geol Soc Am Bull 111:960–973

  56. Mii HS, Grossman EL, Yancey TE, Chuvashov B, Egorov A (2001) Isotopic records of brachiopod shells from the Russian Platform—Evidence for the onset of mid-Carboniferous glaciation. Chem Geol 175:133–147

  57. Montañez IP, Poulsen CJ (2013) The Late Paleozoic ice age: an evolving paradigm. Annu Rev Earth Planet Sci 41:629–656

  58. Petrov PY, Semikhatov MA (2001) Sequence organization and growth patterns of late Mesoproterozoic stromatolite reefs: an example from the Burovaya Formation, Turukhansk Uplift, Siberia. Precambrian Res 111:257–281

  59. Planavsky N, Grey K (2008) Stromatolite branching in the Neoproterozoic of the Centralian Superbasin, Australia: an investigation into sedimentary and microbial control of stromatolite morphology. Geobiology 6:33–45

  60. Popp BN, Anderson TF, Sandberg PA (1986) Brachiopods as indicators of original isotopic compositions in some Paleozoic limestones. Geol Soc Am Bull 97:1262–1269

  61. Poty E, Devuyst FX, Hance L (2006) Upper Devonian and Mississippian foraminiferal and rugose coral zonations of Belgium and northern France: a tool for Eurasian correlations. Geol Mag 143:829–857

  62. Purser BH, Loreau JP (1973) Aragonitic, supratidal encrustations on the Trucial Coast, Persian Gulf. In: Purser BH (ed) The Persian Gulf: Holocene carbonate sedimentation and diagenesis in a shallow epicontinental sea. Springer, Berlin, pp 343–376

  63. Qiao Z, Janson X, Shen A, Zheng J, Zeng H, Wang X (2016) Lithofacies, architecture, and reservoir heterogeneity of tidal-dominated platform marginal oolitic shoal: an analogue of oolitic reservoirs of lower Triassic Feixianguan Formation, Sichuan basin, SW China. Mar Pet Geol 76:290–309

  64. Qie W, Wang X (2012) Carboniferous–early Permian deep-water succession in northern margin of the Dian–Qian–Gui Basin and its sedimentary evolution. Chin J Geol 47:1071–1084 (in Chinese with English abstract)

  65. Qie WK, Zhang XH, Du YS, Zhang Y (2011) Lower Carboniferous carbon isotope stratigraphy in South China: implications for the late Paleozoic glaciation. Sci China Earth Sci 54:84–92

  66. Qie W, Liu J, Chen J, Wang X, Mii HS, Zhang X, Huang X, Yao L, Algeo TJ, Luo G (2015) Local overprints on the global carbonate δ13C signal in Devonian–Carboniferous boundary successions of South China. Palaeogeogr Palaeoclimatol Palaeoecol 418:290–303

  67. Qie W, Wang XD, Zhang X, Ji W, Grossman EL, Huang X, Liu J, Luo G (2016) Latest Devonian to earliest Carboniferous conodont and carbon isotope stratigraphy of a shallow-water sequence in South China. Geol J 51:915–935

  68. Saltzman MR (2002) Carbon and oxygen isotope stratigraphy of the lower Mississippian (Kinderhookian–lower Osagean), western United States: implications for seawater chemistry and glaciation. Geol Soc Am Bull 114:96–108

  69. Saltzman MR (2003a) Late Paleozoic ice age: oceanic gateway or pCO2? Geology 31:151–154

  70. Saltzman MR (2003b) Organic carbon burial and phosphogenesis in the antler foreland basin: an out-of-phase relationship during the lower Mississippian. J Sediment Res 73:844–855

  71. Saltzman MR, González LA, Lohmann KC (2000) Earliest Carboniferous cooling step triggered by the Antler orogeny? Geology 28:347–350

  72. Saltzman MR, Groessens E, Zhuravlev AV (2004) Carbon cycle models based on extreme changes in δ13C: an example from the lower Mississippian. Palaeogeogr Palaeoclimatol Palaeoecol 213:359–377

  73. Saunders WB, Ramsbottom WHC (1986) The mid-Carboniferous eustatic event. Geology 14:208–212

  74. Schauer M, Aigner TT (1997) Cycle stacking pattern, diagenesis and reservoir geology of peritidal dolostones, trigonodus-dolomite, upper Muschelkalk (middle Triassic, SW-Germany). Facies 37:99–113

  75. Shen JW, Qing H (2010) Mississippian (early Carboniferous) stromatolite mounds in a fore-reef slope setting, Laibin, Guangxi, South China. Int J Earth Sci 99:443–458

  76. Shen Y, Wang XL (2015) Foraminiferal biostratigraphy of the Bei’an Formation (Visean–Serpukhovian) in the Pengchong area of Liuzhou, Guangxi, South China. Alcheringa 39:559–572

  77. Sheng Q, Wang X, Brenckle P, Huber BT (2018) Serpukhovian (Mississippian) foraminiferal zones from the Fenghuangshan section, Anhui Province, South China: implications for biostratigraphic correlations. Geol J 53:45–57

  78. Smith LB, Read JF (2000) Rapid onset of late Paleozoic glaciation on Gondwana: evidence from upper Mississippian strata of the Midcontinent, United States. Geology 28:279–282

  79. Stanley SM (2010) Relation of Phanerozoic stable isotope excursions to climate, bacterial metabolism, and major extinctions. Proc Natl Acad Sci 107:19185–19189

  80. Swinchatt JP (1969) Algal boring: a possible depth indicator in carbonate rocks and sediments. Geol Soc Am Bull 80:1391–1396

  81. Veevers JJ, Powell CM (1987) Late Paleozoic glacial episodes in Gondwanaland reflected in transgressive-regressive depositional sequences in Euramerica. Geol Soc Am Bull 98:475–487

  82. Wang X, Jin Y (2000) An outline of Carboniferous chronostratigraphy. J Stratigr 24:90–98 (in Chinese, with English abstract)

  83. Wang X, Qie W, Sheng Q, Qi Y, Wang Y, Liao Z, Shen S, Ueno K (2013) Carboniferous and lower Permian sedimentological cycles and biotic events of South China. Geol Soc Lond Spec Publ 376:33–46

  84. Wang X, Hu K, Qie W, Sheng Q, Chen B, Lin W, Yao L, Wang Q, Qi Y, Chen J, Liao Z, Song J (2019) Carboniferous integrative stratigraphy and timescale of China. Sci China Earth Sci 62:135–153

  85. Wilson JL (1975) Carbonate facies in geological history. Springer, Berlin

  86. Wright VP, Vanstone SD (2001) Onset of late Palaeozoic glacio-eustasy and the evolving climates of low latitude areas: a synthesis of current understanding. J Geol Soc 158:579–582

  87. Yao L, Qie W, Luo G, Liu J, Algeo TJ, Bai X, Yang B, Wang X (2015) The TICE event: perturbation of carbon-nitrogen cycles during the mid-Tournaisian (early Carboniferous) greenhouse-icehouse transition. Chem Geol 401:1–14

Download references


We thank Christopher R. Fielding and an anonymous reviewer for their constructive comments which contribute to improve the initial version of the manuscript. This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant number 41572004) and the Swiss National Science Foundation (Grant number 200021_160019).

Author information

Correspondence to Enpu Gong.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Huang, W., Maillet, M., Zhang, Y. et al. The onset of the major glaciation of the LPIA: record from South China. Int J Earth Sci (Geol Rundsch) 109, 281–300 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00531-019-01802-x

Download citation


  • Late Paleozoic ice age
  • Cyclic deposits
  • Sea-level fluctuation
  • Far-field regions
  • South China