During the late Paleocene to early Eocene, clastic fluvial sediments and coals were deposited in northern high latitudes as part of the Margaret Formation at Stenkul Fiord (Ellesmere Island, Nunavut, Canada). Syn-sedimentary tectonic movements of the Eurekan deformation continuously affected these terrestrial sediments. Different volcanic ash layers occur, and unconformities subdivide the deposits into four sedimentary units. Rare vertebrate fossils indicate an early Eocene (Graybullian) age for the upper part of the Stenkul Fiord outcrop.
Here, we present carbon isotope data of bulk coal, related organic-rich mud and siltstones, a plant leaf wax-derived alkane, and additional plant remains. These data provide a complete carbon isotope record of one stratigraphic section with defined unconformity positions and in relation to other Eurekan deformation features. A previously dated ash layer MA-1 provided a U-Pb zircon age of 53.7 Ma and is used as a stratigraphic tie point, together with a discrete negative carbon isotope excursion found above MA-1 in a closely sampled coal seam. The excursion is identified as the likely expression of the I-1 hyperthermal event.
Based on our isotope data that reflect the early Eocene dynamics of the carbon cycle, this tie point, and previous paleontological constraints from vertebrate fossils, the locations of the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM) and Eocene Thermal Maximum 2 (ETM-2) hyperthermals and their extent along the complete section are herein identified. Within the intervals of the PETM and ETM-2 hyperthermal events, increasing amounts of clastic sediments reached the site toward the respective end of the event. This is interpreted as a response of the fluvial depositional system to an intensified hydrological system during the hyperthermal events. Our study establishes an enhanced stratigraphic framework allowing for the calculation of average sedimentation rates of different intervals and considerations on the completeness of the stratigraphic record.
As one of the few high-latitude outcrops of early Eocene terrestrial sediments, the Stenkul Fiord location offers further possibilities to study the effects of extreme warming events in the Paleogene.