Encyclopedia of Geochemistry

2018 Edition
| Editors: William M. White

Black Shales and Sapropels

  • Kay-Christian EmeisEmail author
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-39312-4_146


Bituminous rock; Organic-rich shale; Sapropelites


Black shales are organic carbon-rich sediments or sedimentary rocks. Black shales are important source rocks of fossil fuels (petroleum and natural gas) (Tissot and Welte 1984) and in some cases host economically viable metal accumulations (Vine and Tourtelot 1970). Sapropels are a geologically young analogue of black shales and offer high-resolution archives to decipher the interplay of paleoclimate and paleoceanography with biogeochemical and biological conditions in marine black shale depositional environments of the more distant geological past (Emeis and Weissert 2009).


Black shales and sapropels represent paleoenvironmental conditions that caused an unusually efficient transfer of mainly marine nonliving biomass into the geosphere and thus have been a key regulation on the global carbon cycle throughout Earth history. The sequestration of organic carbon in the geosphere is a small sink in the...

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© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Earth SciencesHamburg UniversityHamburgGermany