Impact of dissolution on the sedimentary record of the Paleocene-Eocene thermal maximum

Timothy J. Bralower, D. Clay Kelly, Samantha Gibbs, Kenneth Farley, Laurie Eccles, T. Logan Lindemann, Gregory J. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


The input of massive amounts of carbon to the atmosphere and ocean at the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM; ~55.53Ma) resulted in pervasive carbonate dissolution at the seafloor. At many sites this dissolution also penetrated into the underlying sediment column. The magnitude of dissolution at and below the seafloor, a process known as chemical erosion, and its effect on the stratigraphy of the PETM, are notoriously difficult to constrain. Here, we illuminate the impact of dissolution by analyzing the complete spectrum of sedimentological grain sizes across the PETM at three deep-sea sites characterized by a range of bottom water dissolution intensity. We show that the grain size spectrum provides a measure of the sediment fraction lost during dissolution. We compare these data with dissolution and other proxy records, electron micrograph observations of samples and lithology. The complete data set indicates that the two sites with slower carbonate accumulation, and less active bioturbation, are characterized by significant chemical erosion. At the third site, higher carbonate accumulation rates, more active bioturbation, and possibly winnowing have limited the impacts of dissolution. However, grain size data suggest that bioturbation and winnowing were not sufficiently intense to diminish the fidelity of isotopic and microfossil assemblage records.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)70-82
Number of pages13
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
StatePublished - Sep 1 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

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


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