Comparison of Ediacaran platform and slope δ238U records in South China: Implications for global-ocean oxygenation and the origin of the Shuram Excursion

Mengchun Cao, Stuart J. Daines, Timothy M. Lenton, Huan Cui, Thomas J. Algeo, Tais W. Dahl, Wei Shi, Zhong Qiang Chen, Ariel Anbar, Yao Qi Zhou

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


The Ediacaran Shuram negative carbon isotope excursion (SE) records major paleoceanographic changes during the late Neoproterozoic, possibly linked to a global oceanic oxygenation event, yet its cause(s) remain uncertain. Earlier studies of the upper Ediacaran Doushantuo Formation in South China based on local redox proxies have documented strong spatial redox heterogeneity along shelf-to-basin transects, but variations of δ238U (a global redox proxy) have not yet been examined in deep-water SE carbonates. In this study, we examined δ238U variations through the SE in the upper slope Siduping section. Similar to platform SE sections, Siduping exhibits a shift toward higher δ238U values correlative with the peak of the SE (i.e., maximum negative δ13Ccarb), confirming inferences of global ocean oxygenation during the SE. This raises an apparent paradox, because a global negative carbon isotope excursion implies net oxidant consumption, requiring an ocean-based oxygenation mechanism. We hypothesize that an increase in the efficiency of phosphorus burial due to a plankton-driven shift from dominantly dissolved organic matter (DOM) cycling to greater particulate organic matter (POM) export depleted the ocean of nutrient phosphorus. By producing a steep redox gradient close to the sediment-water interface, we suggest that ocean oxygenation also triggered a globally simultaneous diagenetic event in which isotopically light δ13Ccarb was precipitated in authigenic carbonate minerals. This scenario can account for δ238U differences between shallow-water and deep-water carbonates, which reflect precipitation of relatively larger amounts of authigenic carbonate minerals in shallow-water settings, generating both a larger negative δ13Ccarb shift and a larger early diagenetic δ238U offset.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)111-124
Number of pages14
JournalGeochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
StatePublished - Oct 15 2020


  • CIE
  • Carbon isotopes
  • Doushantuo
  • Neoproterozoic
  • Ocean redox
  • Uranium isotopes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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