Cryogenian Glaciation and the Onset of Carbon-Isotope Decoupling

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Science  30 Apr 2010:
Vol. 328, Issue 5978, pp. 608-611
DOI: 10.1126/science.1184508

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Global carbon cycle perturbations throughout Earth history are frequently linked to changing paleogeography, glaciation, ocean oxygenation, and biological innovation. A pronounced carbonate carbon-isotope excursion during the Ediacaran Period (635 to 542 million years ago), accompanied by invariant or decoupled organic carbon-isotope values, has been explained with a model that relies on a large oceanic reservoir of organic carbon. We present carbonate and organic matter carbon-isotope data that demonstrate no decoupling from approximately 820 to 760 million years ago and complete decoupling between the Sturtian and Marinoan glacial events of the Cryogenian Period (approximately 720 to 635 million years ago). Growth of the organic carbon pool may be related to iron-rich and sulfate-poor deep-ocean conditions facilitated by an increase in the Fe:S ratio of the riverine flux after Sturtian glacial removal of a long-lived continental regolith.

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