Significant short-term carbon isotope fluctuations are present in Cretaceous pelagic limestones from widely distributed onshore sections in the Circum–Atlantic-western Tethyan region. More than 1,000 closely spaced samples were analyzed during this study. At least seven major δ13C excursions can be correlated from section to section. The most important “heavy events” occur near the Aptian-Albian and Cenomanian-Turonian boundaries, whereas “light events” are near the Jurassic-Cretaceous, Albian-Cenomanian, Turonian-Coniacian, and Cretaceous-Tertiary boundaries. The association of “events” with stage boundaries and the consistent correlation of “events” between stratigraphic sections provides a significant new tool for time-rock correlation independent of standard biostratigraphic techniques.

The temporal association of these carbon isotope events with stage boundaries (faunal and floral events), global eustatic sea-level variations, and oceanic “anoxic events” demonstrates the potential usefulness of carbon isotope studies in interpreting variations in paleo-oceanic circulation. Furthermore, the association of carbon isotope variations with anoxic events is potentially useful for evaluation of the precise timing and the magnitude of preservation of organic matter in deep-sea and continental-margin sediments. Thus, isotopic studies may aid in estimating potential hydrocarbon resources in largely unexplored oceanic basins or along continental margins.

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