Environmental changes during the Paleocene—Eocene Thermal Maximum in Spitsbergen as reflected by benthic foraminifera

  • Jenö Nagy University of Oslo
  • David Jargvoll
  • Henning Dypvik
  • Malte Jochmann
  • Lars Riber
Keywords: PETM, foraminifera, faunal turnover, diversity decrease, sequence stratigraphy


The study deals with environmental changes during the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM) and its background conditions in Spitsbergen through analysis of benthic foraminiferal assemblages (FA) in a section drilled in the Paleogene Central Basin. The impact of this extreme global warming occurs here in prodelta shelf mudstones composing the lower part of the Gilsonryggen Member (Frysjaodden Formation). The start of the PETM perturbation is marked by a faunal turnover, in which the medium-diversity circumpolar Reticulophragmium assemblage was replaced by a low-diversity Trochammina fauna. During the hyperthermal period, benthic foraminiferal diversity decreased severely, while the dominance of small-sized taxa with epifaunal morphology strongly increased. This low-diversity fauna occurs in sediments with a reduced thorium/uranium ratio (proxy for oxygenation) and kaolinite enrichment (proxy for high humidity). The faunal changes were thus caused by the combined effects of hypoxic and hyposaline conditions in a stratified water column, due to extreme warming with its accompanying intensified hydrologic cycle. The PETM acme coincides with the maximum flooding surface (MFS) of the Gilsonryggen depositional sequence, composed of the Gilsonryggen Member and the overlying Battfjellet and Aspelintoppen formations. The transgressive phase of the sequence was initiated by local tectonics, while the eustatic sea-level rise of the PETM was superimposed on this transgression.

Keywords: PETM; foraminifera; faunal turnover; diversity decrease; sequence stratigraphy

(Published: 25 July 2013)

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Citation: Polar Research 2013, 32, 19737, http://dx.doi.org/10.3402/polar.v32i0.19737


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How to Cite
Nagy, J., Jargvoll, D., Dypvik, H., Jochmann, M., & Riber, L. (2013). Environmental changes during the Paleocene—Eocene Thermal Maximum in Spitsbergen as reflected by benthic foraminifera. Polar Research, 32. https://doi.org/10.3402/polar.v32i0.19737
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