Multiple early Eocene carbon isotope excursions associated with environmental changes in the Dieppe-Hampshire Basin (NW Europe)

Sylvain Garel, Christian Dupuis, Florence Quesnel, Jérémy Jacob, Johan Yans, Roberto Magioncalda, Christine Fléhoc, Johann Schnyder

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The early Eocene experienced a series of short-lived global warming events, known as hyperthermals, associated with negative carbon isotope excursions (CIE). The Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM or ETM-1) and Eocene Thermal Maximum 2 (ETM-2) are the two main events of this Epoch, both marked by massive sea-floor carbonate dissolution. Their timing, amplitude and impacts are rather well documented, but CIEs with lower amplitudes also associated with carbonate dissolution are still poorly studied (e.g. events E1 to H1), especially in the terrestrial realm where hiatus/disconformities and various sedimentary rates in a single succession may complicate the assignation to global isotopic events. Here we present a new high-resolution multi-proxy study on the terrestrial, lagoonal and shallow marine late Paleocene-early Eocene succession from two sites of the Cap d'Ailly area in the Dieppe-Hampshire Basin (Normandy, France). Carbon isotope data (δ13C) on bulk organic matter and higher-plant derived n-alkanes, and K-Ar ages on authigenic glauconite were determined to provide a stratigraphic framework. Palynofacies, distribution and hydrogen isotope values (δ2H) of higher-plant derived n-alkanes allowed us to unravel paleoenvironmental and paleoclimatic changes. In coastal sediments of the Cap d'Ailly area, δ13C values revealed two main negative CIEs, from base to top CIE1 and CIE2, and 3 less pronounced negative excursions older than the NP11 nannofossil biozone. While the CIE1 is clearly linked with the PETM initiation, the CIE2 could either correspond to 1) a second excursion within the PETM interval caused by strong local environmental changes or 2) a global carbon isotopic event that occurred between the PETM and ETM-2. Paleoenvironmental data indicated that both main CIEs were associated with dramatic changes such as eutrophication, algal and/or dinoflagellate blooms along with paleohydrological variations and an increase in seasonality. They revealed that the intervals immediately below these CIEs are also marked by environmental and climatic changes. Thus, this study shows either 1) a PETM marked by at least two distinct intervals of strong environmental and climatic changes or 2) at least one "minor"CIE: E1, E2, F or G, was associated with strong environmental and climatic changes similar to those that occurred during the PETM.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2020030
JournalBSGF - Earth Sciences Bulletin
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Carbon isotope excursions
  • Dieppe-Hampshire Basin
  • Early Eocene
  • Paleohydrology
  • Palynofacies
  • PETM


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