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Abstract

The late Famennian mass extinction has been associated with a worldwide anoxic event evidenced at many sites by the accumulation of organic-rich shales starting prior to the Devonian–Carboniferous (D/C) boundary. Environmental reconstructions are hampered by the fact that only a few D/C boundary sections exist in carbonate facies. One of these is the Palaeozoic Steinberg section, Eastern Alps, Austria. Based on detailed geochemical investigations and correlation with previously investigated sections, we propose a succession of events from the late Famennian to the Tournaisian. Both the low total rare earth element (REE) contents and the normalized REE distribution patterns indicate low terrigenous input from the praesulcata Zone to the typicus Zone. The δ13C, δ18O, δ34S and total organic content (TOC) show a shift towards higher values, which correlates well with the late Famennian isotopic trends that are related to a period of active ocean circulation, cooling and increased productivity. Two isotopic shifts are present in the section: the older isotopic shift of the δ13C values is situated at the level of the Lower to Middle praesulcata Zone, while the younger one is found at the level of the Upper praesulcata Zone. In the sulcata Zone, a sharp decrease in δ18O values and a shift in the Ce anomaly follow. Concomitantly, a drop in the δ13C and δ34S values, highly variable TOC values, and the main and secondary element concentrations are interpreted to be related to a drop in primary productivity, with the recovery continuing in the crenulata Zone. In this context, the variations towards lower CaO, Sr, Rb and Ba values probably correlate with biomass variations and a transition from cooler towards warmer conditions.

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