Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor's Name

Florentin Maurrasse

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Laurel Collins

Third Advisor's Name

Rosemary Hickey-Vargas

Fourth Advisor's Name

Rudolp Jaffe


Carbon sequestration, Lower Cretaceous, Oceanic Anoxic Event 1a, Organyà Basin, Spanish Pyrenees, Carbon Isotopes, Trace Elements

Date of Defense



The hallmark of oceanic anoxic event 1a (OAE1a) (early Aptian ~125 Ma) corresponds to worldwide deposition of black shales with total organic carbon (TOC) content > 2% and a d13C positive excursion up to ~5‰. OAE1a has been related to large igneous province volcanism and dissociation of methane hydrates during the Lower Cretaceous. However, the occurrence of atypical, coeval and diachronous organic-rich deposits associated with OAE1a, which are also characterized by positive spikes of the d13C in epicontinental to restricted marine environments of the Tethys Ocean, indicates localized responses decoupled from complex global forcing factors.

The present research is a high-resolution, multiproxy approach to assess the paleoenvironmental conditions that led to enhanced carbon sequestration from the late Barremian to the middle Aptian in a restricted, Tethyan marginal basin prior to and during OAE1a. I studied the lower 240 m of the El Pui section, Organyà Basin, Spanish Pyrenees. The basin developed as the result of extensional tectonism linked to the opening of the Atlantic Ocean. At the field scale the section consists of a sequence of alternating beds of cm – m-scale, medium-gray to grayish-black limestones and marlstones with TOC up to ~4%.

The results indicate that the lowest 85 m of the section, from latest Barremian –earliest Aptian, characterize a deepening phase of the basin concomitant with sustained riverine flux and intensified primary productivity. These changes induced a shift in the sedimentation pattern and decreased the oxygen levels in the water column through organic matter respiration and limited ventilation of the basin.

The upper 155 m comprising the earliest – late-early Aptian document the occurrence of OAE1a and its associated geochemical signatures (TOC up to 3% and a positive shift in d13C of ~5‰). However, a low enrichment of redox-sensitive trace elements indicates that the basin did not achieve anoxic conditions. The results also suggest that a shallower-phase of the basin, coeval with platform progradation, may have increased ventilation of the basin at the same time that heightened sedimentation rates and additional input of organic matter from terrestrial sources increased the burial and preservation rate of TOC in the sediment.





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