Eutrophication and Deoxygenation Forcing of Marginal Marine Organic Carbon Burial During the PETM

Nina M. Papadomanolaki*, Appy Sluijs, Caroline P. Slomp

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM) is recognized globally by a negative excursion in stable carbon isotope ratios (δ13C) in sedimentary records, termed the carbon isotope excursion (CIE). Based on the CIE, the cause, duration, and mechanisms of recovery of the event have been assessed. Here, we focus on the role of increased organic carbon burial on continental margins as a key driver of CO2 drawdown and global exogenic δ13C during the recovery phase. Using new and previously published sediment proxy data, we show evidence for widespread enhanced primary production, low oxygen waters, and high organic carbon (Corg) burial in marginal and restricted environments throughout the δ13C excursion. With a new biogeochemical box model for deep and marginal environments, we show that increased phosphorus availability and water column stratification on continental margins can explain the increased Corg burial during the PETM. Deoxygenation and recycling of phosphorus relative to Corg were relatively mild, compared to modern day anoxic marine systems. Our model reproduces the conditions reconstructed by field data, resulting in a burial of 6,000 Pg across the PETM, in excess of late Paleocene burial, and ∼3,300 Pg C for the critical first 40 kyr of the recovery, primarily located on continental margins. This value is consistent with prior data and model estimates (∼2,000–3,000 Pg C). To reproduce global exogenic δ13C patterns, this Corg burial implies an injection of 5,000–10,000 Pg C during the first ∼100–150 kyr of the PETM, depending on the source's δ13C (−11‰ to −55‰).

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2021PA004232
Pages (from-to)1-23
JournalPaleoceanography and Paleoclimatology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2022


  • organic carbon
  • oxygen
  • Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum
  • phosphorus
  • primary productivity
  • recovery
  • stratification
  • δC


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