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Discussion papers
https://doi.org/10.5194/cp-2019-20
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/cp-2019-20
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 14 Feb 2019

Research article | 14 Feb 2019

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Climate of the Past (CP).

Palaeoenvironmental response of mid-latitudinal wetlands to PETM climate change (Schöningen lignite deposits, Germany)

Katharina Methner1, Olaf Lenz2, Walter Riegel2, Volker Wilde2, and Andreas Mulch1,3 Katharina Methner et al.
  • 1Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre, Frankfurt am Main, 60325, Germany
  • 2Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum Frankfurt, Frankfurt am Main, 60325, Germany
  • 3Institute of Geosciences, Goethe University Frankfurt, Frankfurt am Main, 60438, Germany

Abstract. The Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM) offers insight into massive short-term carbon cycle perturbations that caused significant warming during a high-pCO2 world, affecting both marine and terrestrial ecosystems. PETM records from the marine-terrestrial interface (e.g. estuarine swamps and mire deposits) are, therefore, of great interest as their present-day counterparts are highly vulnerable to future climate and sea level change. Here, we assess paleoenvironmental changes of mid-latitudinal Late Paleocene-Early Eocene peat mire records along the paleo-North Sea coast. We provide carbon isotope data of bulk organic matter (δ13CTOC), organic carbon content (%TOC), and palynological data from an extensive peat mire deposited at a mid-latitudinal (ca. 41 °N) coastal site (Schöningen, Germany). The δ13CTOC data show a carbon isotope excursion (CIE) of −1.7 ‰ coeval with a conspicuous Apectodinium acme, calling for the presence of the PETM in this coastal section. Due to the exceptionally large stratigraphic thickness of the PETM at Schöningen (10 m of section) we established a detailed palynological record that indicates only minor changes in paleovegetation leading to and during the PETM. Instead, paleovegetation changes mostly follow natural successions in response to changes along the marine-terrestrial interface. Compared to other available peat mire records (Cobham, UK; Vasterival, France) it appears that wetland deposits around the Paleogene North Sea have a typical CIE magnitude of ca. −1.3 ‰ in δ13CTOC. Moreover, the Schöningen record shares major characteristics with the Cobham Lignite, including evidence for increased fire activity prior to the PETM, minor PETM-related plant species changes, a reduced CIE in δ13CTOC, and drowning of the mire (marine ingressions) during much of the PETM. This suggests that paleoenvironmental conditions during the Late Paleocene-Early Eocene, including the PETM, consistently affected major segments of the paleo-North Sea coast.

Katharina Methner et al.
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Short summary
We describe the presence of a carbon isotope excursion (CIE) in Paleogene lignites (Schöningen, DE) that we attribute to reflect the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM). Palynological data point to minor PETM-related paleovegetation changes. Paleo-North Sea wetland deposits (Schöningen; Cobham; Vasterival) therefore, share major characteristics of increased fire activity (pre-PETM), minor plant species changes, a reduced CIE, and drowning of near-coastal mires during the PETM.
We describe the presence of a carbon isotope excursion (CIE) in Paleogene lignites (Schöningen,...
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