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Varve calibrated records of carbonate and organic carbon accumulation over the last 2000 years in the Black Sea

January 8, 1994

Sedimentologic and geochemical studies of box and gravity cores recovered from the Black Sea during the first leg of a multileg international Black Sea expedition in 1988 allow reconstruction of the basinwide Holocene environmental history of the Black Sea. In the deeper parts of the basin, box cores typically recovered a flocculent surface layer (“fluff”), laminated coccolith marls of Unit I (25–45 cm thick), and the upper 5–10 cm of finely laminated, dark‐colored sapropels of Unit II. Fine‐grained, homogeneous mud turbidites are interbedded with Units I and II over much of the basin, but the stratigraphie position of these turbidites differs, from site to site. The deposition of individual turbidites up to 15 cm thick does not appear to have significantly disturbed underlying laminae. Sediment trap deployments in the Black Sea suggest that light and dark laminae couplets represent annual increments of sedimentation (i.e., varves); we have therefore constructed a varve chronology for the sequence in order to correlate and date distinctive sedimentation and paleoenvironmental events. Distinctive groups of laminae in Unit I can be correlated across the entire deeper basin (a distance of more than 1000 km). This implies a remarkable homogeneity in production, accumulation, and preservation of biogenic material over much of the Black Sea during deposition of Unit I. The change from deposition of finely laminated, organic carbon‐rich sapropels (Unit II) to laminated, more calcareous, coccolith‐rich marls (Unit I) is thought to represent the crossing of a salinity threshold for Emiliania huxleyi. The varve chronology sets this change at about 1.63 ka (1633±100 yr B.P.), but the record of magnetic secular variation measured in several cores produces an age estimate of about 2.0 ka for the base of Unit I, or about 1.2 times the varve age. The average of six calibrated accelerator mass spectrometry radiocarbon ages for the base of Unit I is 2.7 ka, or about 1.7 times the varve age. Following the initial change to coccolith‐dominated sedimentation, deposition of sapropel resumed for at least one significant period, 1.56–1.25 ka. Since 1.25 ka, cycles of carbonate deposition with quasi‐decadal periodicities have produced characteristic darker and lighter assemblages of laminae. These cycles may have been climatically driven. Geochemical analyses coupled with the varve ages adopted herein indicate that accumulation rates of carbonate are nearly an order of magnitude higher in Unit I (averaging 35–45 g m−2 yr−1) than in sapropelic Unit II. which contains primarily detrital carbonate. The accumulation of lithogenic components in parts of Unit I is only 1.5 times the rate in Unit II. Deepwater organic carbon accumulation rates are somewhat higher in Unit I (3.5–4.5 g m−2 yr−1) than in the upper part of Unit II. Organic carbon accumulation rates in Unit I are somewhat antithetic to those of carbonate, and on the basis of this and additional constraints placed by pyrolysis and carbon isotopic analyses of organic material, it appears that terrestrial organic matter is an important component (perhaps >25%) of total organic carbon burial in the basin. Unit I in the western part of the Black Sea has a higher terrestrial organic component and higher accumulation rates of terrigenous clastic material than Unit I in the eastern part. This difference between eastern and western Black Sea is to be expected because of the major rivers that empty into the western Black Sea from eastern Europe, Ukraine, and Russia. Shallow slope sites, but still within euxinic bottom waters, have lower organic carbon accumulation rates and lower pyrolysis hydrogen indices than deepwater basinal sites, suggesting selective resuspension and oxidation of organic matter at basin margins and focusing of organic matter deposition toward the basin center. A comparison of the Black Sea data with those from several open ocean sites with similar water depths showed no significant difference between organic carbon accumulation rates under oxic and anoxic conditions. For a given bulk accumulation rate the organic carbon accumulation rates, normalized to primary productivity, are about the same in both settings.

Publication Year 1994
Title Varve calibrated records of carbonate and organic carbon accumulation over the last 2000 years in the Black Sea
DOI 10.1029/94GB00297
Authors Michael A. Arthur, Walter E. Dean, E.D. Neff, B.J. Hay, J. King, Glenn A. Jones
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Global Biogeochemical Cycles
Index ID 70207735
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Geosciences and Environmental Change Science Center