The impact of Early Cretaceous gateway evolution on ocean circulation and organic carbon burial in the emerging South Atlantic and Southern Ocean basins

W. Dummann*, S. Steinig, P. Hofmann, S. Flögel, A. H. Osborne, M. Frank, Jens O. Herrle, L. Bretschneider, R. M. Sheward, T. Wagner

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)
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Organic carbon burial is an important driver of carbon cycle and climate dynamics on geological and shorter time scales. Ocean basins emerging during the Early Cretaceous break-up of Gondwana were primary sites of organic carbon burial, implying that their tectonic and oceanographic evolution may have affected trends and perturbations in global climate via changes in local organic carbon burial. Assessing the role of individual ocean basins in the global carbon-climate context requires a sound understanding of the processes that induced large-scale changes in carbon burial and the timing of these changes. Here we reconstruct the oceanographic evolution, and its links to organic carbon burial, in the Barremian to Albian South Atlantic and Southern Ocean basins, which may have acted as carbon sinks of global importance. Our reconstruction is based on combined seawater neodymium isotope and sedimentological records obtained from multiple deep sea drill sites and a new general circulation model. Deep water circulation within and between those basins was primarily controlled by the opening of the shallow Falkland Plateau Gateway (between ∼118 Ma and ∼113 Ma) and the deep Georgia Basin Gateway (by ∼110 Ma), for which we provide new age constraints based on biostratigraphic and carbon isotope data. The opening of these gateways was accompanied by local to basin-wide decreases in organic carbon burial, suggesting that ocean circulation affected the oxygenation state via changes in deep water ventilation. Although our data do not provide quantitative information on the impact of changes in regional organic carbon burial on the global carbon cycle, the synchronicity between the reduction of organic carbon burial in the South Atlantic basin and global warming during the Early Albian points to a strong causal relationship.

Original languageEnglish
Article number115890
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
Early online date24 Oct 2019
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jan 2020


  • Early Cretaceous
  • gateways
  • neodymium isotopes
  • ocean circulation
  • organic carbon burial
  • South Atlantic

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science


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