Rapid eruption of submarine lava flows during formation of the Caribbean plateau correlates closely with ocean anoxic event 2 (OAE2), which bracketed the Cenomanian/Turonian boundary (∼93.5 Ma). These events also correspond with a positive excursion in carbon isotopic composition of seawater. Hydrothermal activity associated with large-scale submarine volcanism may have been responsible for this abrupt change in ocean chemistry. We determined the distribution of major, minor, and trace element abundances in the Rock Canyon marine sedimentary section (Pueblo, Colorado). After normalizing element concentrations to Zr to remove the variable contribution of terrigenous material to these sediments, we detected an interval of concentrated metal abundance anomalies that coincides with the abrupt beginning of the positive δ 13C isotope excursion. The metal abundance anomalies indicate that intermittent hydrothermal activity, in the form of both water/rock exchange and magmatic degassing, introduced large concentrations of trace metals into the Cretaceous ocean at the same time that extinctions of benthic species, turnover in plankton communities, and increases in isotopically light organic carbon burial occurred. The stratigraphic position of this interval of trace metal anomalies matches events associated with OAE2 and indicates that intermittent hydrothermal activity on a massive scale triggered abrupt changes in carbon burial and deep ocean oxygen contents.
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