Bentho-planktonic evidence from the Austrian Alps for a decline in sea-surface carbonate production at the end of the Triassic

Abstract

A high-resolution micropalaeontological study, combined with geochemical and sedimentological analyses was performed on the Tiefengraben, Schlossgraben and Eiberg sections (Austrian Alps) in order to characterize sea-surface carbonate production during the end-Triassic crisis. At the end-Rhaetian, the dominant calcareous nannofossil Prinsiosphaera triassica shows a decrease in abundance and size and this is correlated with a increase in δ18O and a gradual decline in δ13Ccarb values. Simultaneously, benthic foraminiferal assemblages show a decrease in diversity and abundance of calcareous taxa and a dominance of infaunal agglutinated taxa. The smaller size of calcareous nannofossils disturbed the vertical export balance of the biological carbon pump towards the sea-bottom, resulting in changes in feeding strategies within the benthic foraminiferal assemblages from deposit feeders to detritus feeders and bacterial scavengers. These micropalaeontological data combined with geochemical proxies suggest that changes in seawater chemistry and/or cooling episodes might have occurred in the latest Triassic, leading to a marked decrease of carbonate production. This in turn culminated in the quasi-absence of calcareous nannofossils and benthic foraminifers in the latest Triassic. The aftermath (latest Triassic earliest Jurassic) was characterised by abundance peaks of “disaster” epifaunal agglutinated foraminifera Trochammina on the sea-floor. Central Atlantic Magmatic Province (CAMP) paroxysmal activity, superimposed on a major worldwide regressive phase, is assumed to be responsible for a deterioration in marine palaeoenvironments. CAMP sulfuric emissions might have been the trigger for cooling episodes and seawater acidification leading to disturbance of the surface carbonate production at the very end-Triassic.

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Acknowledgments

We thank François Baudin, Helmut Weissert, Rossana Martini and Emanuela Mattioli for fruitful discussions, Leopold Krystyn and Axel von Hillebrandt for precious field-trip information and Sally Reynolds and Alain Morard for English text assistance. The manuscript has benefited from the constructive reviews of E. Erba and L. Tanner, for which they are gratefully thanked. We also thank Joel Ughetto (MNHN UMR 7209) for isotope data and Gérard Mascarell (FRE 3206 CNRS/MNHN) for MEB photo assistance. This research was supported by the CNRS Program Project “Eclipse II”, and by IFP, Convention no 31231, by the Swiss NSF project 200020-111559 and by the MNHN PPF “Biodiversité et role des microorganismes dans les écosystèmes actuels et passés”. We acknowledge the Région Ile de France, which contributed toward the purchasing of the mass spectrometer of SSMIM (Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle of Paris, France).

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Correspondence to Silvia Gardin.

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Editorial handling: Daniel Marty.

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Clémence, ME., Gardin, S., Bartolini, A. et al. Bentho-planktonic evidence from the Austrian Alps for a decline in sea-surface carbonate production at the end of the Triassic. Swiss J Geosci 103, 293–315 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00015-010-0019-z

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Keywords

  • Benthic foraminifera
  • Calcareous nannofossils
  • Carbonate production
  • End-Triassic crisis
  • CAMP volcanism
  • Austrian Alps