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The role of organic matter diversity on the Re-Os systematics of organic-rich sedimentary units: Insights into the controls of isochron age determinations from the lacustrine Green River Formation

June 28, 2022

The range of 187Re/188Os values measured from samples of five organic-rich lacustrine mudstones units in the Eocene Green River Formation in the easternmost Uinta Basin covaries with organic matter diversity driven by changing water column conditions. A set of samples from the Douglas Creek Member has the highest pristane/phytane ratio and lowest β-carotane/n-C30 ratio compared to overlying units, indicating deposition in an oxic-anoxic environment with low salinity that would have allowed for the accumulation of a diverse assemblage of aquatic organisms. These samples define the broadest 187Re/188Os range of 1504. In contrast, samples from the R6 and Mahogany zones possess lower pristane/phytane ratios and higher β-carotane/n-C30 ratios indicating deposition in a more restricted lacustrine environment with elevated salinities and alkalinities that would have limited aquatic organic matter diversity. The R6 and Mahogany zones have the narrowest range of 187Re/188Os values measured in this study of 254.9 and 154.6, respectively. As noted by previous workers, these results suggest that organic matter diversity plays a primary role in determining the range of 187Re/188Os ratios in a sample set, and in turn the uncertainty of Re-Os age determinations from organic-rich sedimentary rocks.

The Re-Os data from the R3 zone and R6 zone yield ages of 49.7 ± 3.4 Ma and 42.0 ± 18 Ma, respectively, which are statistically indistinguishable based on 2σ uncertainty from three previously reported Re-Os age determinations and those provided by 40Ar/39Ar geochronology of interbedded volcanic ash beds. Although the age uncertainty is high, these findings further highlight the importance of Re-Os geochronology in lacustrine basins, particularly those with thick mudstone successions that lack volcanic ash layers, reliable biostratigraphy, or magnetostratigraphic control. In these cases, even ages with large uncertainties can be useful to constrain burial history and thermal history models.

Together, the initial 187Os/188Os ratios of five sets of samples analyzed from the Uinta Basin define the largest Os isotope stratigraphic record from any lacustrine basin compiled to date and record a shift from a value of 1.40 to 1.48 between the R3 and R4 zones in the lower part of the Parachute Creek Member. This small shift may signify a change in the chemical weathering products that entered the lake preserved 20 to 50 m above the contact between the Douglas Creek and the lower Parachute Creek members during a period when the basin transitioned from a shallow lake with mostly open hydrology to an alkaline lake with more frequent basin restrictions.

    Citation Information

    Publication Year 2022
    Title The role of organic matter diversity on the Re-Os systematics of organic-rich sedimentary units: Insights into the controls of isochron age determinations from the lacustrine Green River Formation
    DOI 10.1016/j.chemgeo.2022.120939
    Authors Jeffrey T Pietras, Abby Dennett, David Selby, Justin E. Birdwell
    Publication Type Article
    Publication Subtype Journal Article
    Series Title Chemical Geology
    Series Number
    Index ID 70231886
    Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
    USGS Organization Central Energy Resources Science Center

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