Late-Quaternary supply of terrigenous organic matter to the Congo deep-sea fan (ODP site 1075): implications for equatorial African paleoclimate

Jens Holtvoeth, Thomas Wagner, B. Horsfield, Carsten J. Schubert, U. Wand

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35 Citations (Scopus)


Late-Quaternary sections (about I Ma) from the Congo deep-sea fan (ODP Leg 175, site 1075) were used to reconstruct the terrigenous organic matter supply to the easternmost equatorial Atlantic Ocean. Variations in quantity and quality of the riverine organic matter reflect the interaction between the paleoclimatic development within the continental catchment area and the paleoceanographic conditions in the Congo river plume. To characterize the delivery of organic matter from terrigenous and marine sources, we used elemental and bulk carbon isotopic analyses, Rock-Eval pyrolysis, lignin chemistry, and organic petrology. High-amplitude fluctuations occurring about every 15-25 ka reveal a mainly precessional control on organic sedimentation. Results from Rock-Eval pyrolysis indicate a mixed kerogen type III/II, as would be anticipated in front of a major river. Fluctuations in Tn,, from Rock-Evat pyrolysis demonstrate pronounced cyclic changes in the delivery of low- and high-mature organic matter. Contribution of the low-mature organic fraction was strongest during warm climates supporting enhanced marine production offshore of the Congo. Organic petrological observations confirm the existence of abundant terrigenous plant tissues, both non-oxidized (vitrinite) and oxidized (inertinite). Charcoal-like organic matter (fusinite) is attributed to periods of increased bush fires in the continental hinterland, and implies more and climatic conditions. Results from ratios of specific phenolic lignin components suggest that terrigenous organic matter in Late-Quaternary sections of site 1075 mainly derives from non-woody angiosperm tissue, i.e., grasses and leaves. Correlation between the amount of specific lignin phenols and the bulk delta C-13(org) signature fosters the conclusion that an appreciable amount of the terrigenous organic fraction derives from C4 plant matter. This may cause an underestimation of the terrigenous proportion of bulk organic matter when assessments are based on bulk carbon isotopic signatures alone.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)23-33
Number of pages11
JournalGeo-Marine Letters
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2001




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