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Early Cretaceous life, climate and anoxia
Early Cretaceous life and the environment were strongly influenced by the accelerated break up of Pangaea, which was associated with the formation of a multitude of rift basins, intensified spreading, and important volcanic activity on land and in the sea. These processes likely interacted with greenhouse conditions, and Early Cretaceous climate oscillated between "normal" greenhouse, predominantly arid conditions, and intensified greenhouse, predominantly humid conditions. Arid conditions were important during the latest Jurassic and early Berriasian, the late Barremian, and partly also during the late Aptian. Humid conditions were particularly intense and widespread during shorter episodes of environmental change (EECs): the Valanginian Weissert, the latest Hauterivian Faraoni, the latest Barremian earliest Aptian Taxy, the early Aptian Selli, the early late Aptian Fallot and the late Aptian-early Albian Paquier episodes. Arid conditions were associated with evaporation, low biogeochemical weathering rates, low nutrient fluxes, and partly stratified oceans, leading to oxygen depletion and enhanced preservation of laminated, organic-rich mud (LOM). Humid conditions enabled elevated biogeochemical weathering rates and nutrient fluxes, important runoff and the buildup of freshwater lids in proximal basins, intensified oceanic and atmospheric circulation, widespread upwelling and phosphogenesis, important primary productivity and enhanced preservation of LOM in expanded oxygen-minimum zones. The transition of arid to humid climates may have been associated with the net transfer of water to the continent owing to the infill of dried-out groundwater reservoirs in internally drained inland basins. This resulted in shorter-term sea-level fall, which was followed by sea-level rise. These sea-level changes and the influx of freshwater into the ocean may have influenced oxygen-isotope signatures. Climate change preceding and during the Early Cretaceous EECs may have been rapid, but in general, the EECs had a "pre"-history, during which the stage was set for environmental change. Negative feedback on the climate through increased marine LOM preservation was unlikely, because of the low overall organic-carbon accumulation rates during these episodes. Life and climate co-evolved during the Early Cretaceous. Arid conditions may have affected continental life, such as across the Tithonian/Berriasian boundary. Humid conditions and the corresponding tendency to develop dys- to anaerobic conditions in deeper ocean waters led to phases of accelerated extinction in oceans, but may have led to more luxuriant vegetation cover on continents, such as during the Valanginian, to the benefit of herbivores. During Early Cretaceous EECs, reef systems and carbonate platforms in general were particularly vulnerable. They were the first to disappear and the last to recover, often only after several million years. (C) 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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