Widespread oceanic anoxia, biological crises, and volcanic activity are associated with the onset of Early Aptian (ca. 120 Ma) Oceanic Anoxic Event 1a (OAE1a). Reconstructions of oceanic deoxygenation and its links to broadly contemporaneous volcanism, however, remain poorly resolved. We use geochemical data, including δ53Cr ratios and rare Earth element abundances, to define the timing and tempo of submarine volcanism and global oceanic deoxygenation across this event. Pacific Ocean sediments deposited in the run up to OAE1a record multiple phases of marine volcanism associated with the emplacement of Ontong Java Plateau lavas. Rapid oceanic deoxygenation followed the initial phases of volcanism and a biocalcification crisis. Large swaths of the oceans likely became anoxic from the Tethys to the Pacific Oceans in <30 k.y. Oceanic anoxia persisted for almost one million years after this and was likely sustained through intensified continental and submarine weathering. These results paint a new picture of OAE1a in which volcanism, biological crisis, and oceanic deoxygenation are separated in time and linked through Earth system responses that operate on time scales of tens of thousands of years.

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