Carbon-isotope stratigraphy in shallow-water carbonates: Implications for Cretaceous black-shale deposition

Jürgen Grötsch*, Ian Billing, Volker Vahrenkamp

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

118 Scopus citations


A Barremian to Albian succession on Mount Kanala, part of a Tethyan isolated carbonate platform, was investigated for its δ13C variations. The limestone sequence is composed of a series of peritidal shallowing-upward cycles with clear petrographic evidence for strong early diagenetic overprinting related to repeated subaerial exposure. Despite significant impact of diagenesis, the observed changes in δ13C can be very well correlated with deep-water sections from different ocean basins and shallow water carbonate platforms in the Middle East. This lends further support to the applicability of δ13C variations for stratigraphic purposes in shallow-water limestones. Using the δ13C signal, time resolution in Lower Cretaceous platform carbonates can be significantly increased, independent of bio-zonations often hampered by ecological variability. Cyclostratigraphic analysis of the Aptian part of the section shows that strong positive excursions of the cumulative departure from mean cycle thickness of the peritidal shallowing-upward cycles coincide with global positive δ13C excursions. This, and the fact that positive shifts in the δ13C record are preserved within shallow water limestones, provide evidence that black-shale accumulation in the ocean basins occurred during sea-level rise and flooding of platform tops. Integration of carbon-isotope-, cyclo- and sequence-stratigraphic results from different carbonate platforms indicate that strong positive global δ13C shifts and concurrent organic-carbon burial during black-shale deposition are ultimately caused by rapid rises of eustatic sea level. Hence, the rate of change of eustatic sea level is considered to play a crucial role in black-shale accumulation in the global ocean basins during the Cretaceous.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)623-634
Number of pages12
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1 1998

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geology
  • Stratigraphy


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