Abstract

A palynological study of the uppermost Famennian section from Kowala Quarry (Holy Cross Mountains, central Poland) allowed recognition of two miospore zones: LV (Retispora lepidophyta–Apiculiretusispora verrucosa) and LN (Retispora lepidophyta–Verrucosisporites nitidus). Based on palynology and sedimentology, the black shale within the upper part of the section is identified as equivalent to the Hangenberg Black Shale, which is known globally. This black shale contains compounds characteristic of photic zone euxinia, including isorenieratane and its derivatives. Such compounds are absent in the organic-poor marls and shales occurring below the LN Zone, and are present only as traces in the layers just above the black shale, indicating fluctuations in the oxygen minimum zone during uppermost Famennian sedimentation. Palynofacies show high amounts of amorphous organic matter and prasinophyte concentrations in the black shale, and a subsequent significant decrease of amorphous organic matter concomitant with a rapid increase of terrestrial input (mainly miospores with common tetrads) in the layers above the black shale. This supports the relatively rapid change in the taxonomic composition of phytoplankton caused by fluctuations of the chemocline. The whole succession corresponds to one sea-level rise and fall. The presence of high concentrations of peri-condensed polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and large amounts of small charcoal particles at the Hangenberg event horizon indicate the occurrence of wildfires. Such observations suggest that atmospheric O2 levels had exceeded the critical threshold of 13 %, above which wildfires may occur, by latest Famennian time.

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