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Pedogenic carbonate stable isotope record of environmental change during the Neogene in the Southern Great Plains, southwest Kansas, USA; carbon isotopes and the evolution of C (sub 4) -dominated grasslands

David L. Fox, James G. Honey, Robert A. Martin and Pablo Pelaez-Campomanes
Pedogenic carbonate stable isotope record of environmental change during the Neogene in the Southern Great Plains, southwest Kansas, USA; carbon isotopes and the evolution of C (sub 4) -dominated grasslands
Geological Society of America Bulletin (November 2011) 124 (3-4): 444-462

Abstract

Fossiliferous strata in the Meade Basin (southwest Kansas) preserve numerous superposed mammalian faunas and calcareous paleosols that range in age from the Clarendonian North American Land Mammal Age (NALMA; 12.0-9.0 Ma, early late Miocene) to the early Irvingtonian NALMA (ca. 2.5-ca. 1.0 Ma, early Pleistocene). Faunas from these sections document the evolution of the small mammal community of the modern grassland ecosystem of the region, and the stable isotope composition of paleosol carbonates provides a means by which the environmental context of the evolution of the modern ecosystem may be documented. We used the stable carbon isotope composition (delta (super 13) C relative to Vienna Peedee belemnite [VPDB]) of 194 pedogenic carbonates from 19 measured sections to reconstruct the history of C (sub 4) grass abundance in the Meade Basin. Paleosol carbonate delta (super 13) C values reflect the proportion of C (sub 3) (trees, shrubs, cool-climate grasses) and C (sub 4) (warm-climate grasses) plants that grew in an ancient soil and provide a means with which to reconstruct past mammalian habitats. Paleosol carbonate delta (super 13) C values record a three-phase increase in the abundance of C (sub 4) biomass during the Neogene in the Meade Basin. Late Miocene sections have mean delta (super 13) C values of -7.6 per mil + or -0.90 per mil (Clarendonian) and -6.5 per mil + or -0.31 per mil (Hemphillian NALMA, 9.0-4.9 Ma), consistent with 17% and 26% C (sub 4) biomass, respectively. Miocene delta (super 13) C values from Meade are statistically identical to published delta (super 13) C values for Miocene paleosol carbonates elsewhere in the southern Great Plains, supporting the widespread presence of approximately 20% C (sub 4) biomass on average in the region throughout the Miocene. The abundance of C (sub 4) biomass increased between the end of the Hemphillian section and the beginning of the early Blancan NALMA (5.0-3.0 Ma). Early and middle Blancan (3.0-2.5 Ma) carbonates have statistically identical delta (super 13) C values (-4.9 per mil + or -0.90 per mil and -5.0 per mil + or -1.10 per mil, respectively), suggesting a stable ecosystem during the early Pliocene, although high delta (super 13) C variability in densely sampled intervals suggests a high degree of landscape-scale variation in C (sub 4) abundance. The final phase, geochronologically controlled by two well-characterized ashes (Huckleberry Ridge, 2.10 Ma; Cerro Toledo B, 1.47-1.23 Ma) and magnetostratigraphy, is a trend to higher delta (super 13) C values from the late Blancan to early Irvingtonian (ca. 2.5-ca 1.0 Ma) from -4 per mil at the base of the section to approximately 1 per mil at the top, corresponding to an increase from almost 50% to 65% C (sub 4) biomass. The abundance of C (sub 4) biomass first reaches modern levels for the region (78%+ or -10.9%) around the level of the Cerro Toledo B ash, indicating that a modern-like grassland ecosystem first appeared in the region ca. 1.3 Ma, although delta (super 13) C values do not remain consistently high through the rest of the section.


ISSN: 0016-7606
EISSN: 1943-2674
Coden: BUGMAF
Serial Title: Geological Society of America Bulletin
Serial Volume: 124
Serial Issue: 3-4
Title: Pedogenic carbonate stable isotope record of environmental change during the Neogene in the Southern Great Plains, southwest Kansas, USA; carbon isotopes and the evolution of C (sub 4) -dominated grasslands
Affiliation: University of Minnesota, Department of Geology and Geophysics, Minneapolis, MN, United States
Pages: 444-462
Published: 20111101
Text Language: English
Publisher: Geological Society of America (GSA), Boulder, CO, United States
References: 111
Accession Number: 2012-016186
Categories: Isotope geochemistryStratigraphy
Document Type: Serial
Bibliographic Level: Analytic
Annotation: With GSA Data Repository Item 2011262
Illustration Description: illus. incl. strat. col., 2 tables, sketch map
N37°13'60" - N37°15'00", W100°31'00" - W100°30'00"
Secondary Affiliation: University of Colorado, USA, United StatesMurray State University, USA, United StatesConsejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas, ESP, Spain
Country of Publication: United States
Secondary Affiliation: GeoRef, Copyright 2019, American Geosciences Institute. Reference includes data from GeoScienceWorld, Alexandria, VA, United States. Reference includes data supplied by the Geological Society of America, Boulder, CO, United States
Update Code: 201209
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