Abstract

The Mead Stream section (South Island, New Zealand) consists of a 650-m-thick series of continuous, well-exposed strata deposited on a South Pacific continental slope from the Late Cretaceous to the middle Eocene. We examined the uppermost Paleocene–middle Eocene part of the section, which consists of ∼360 m of limestone and marl, for detailed magnetic polarity stratigraphy and calcareous nannofossil and foraminifera biostratigraphy. Magneto-biostratigraphic data indicate that the section straddles magnetic polarity chrons from C24r to C18n, calcareous nannofossil zones from NP9a to NP17 (CNP11–CNE15, following a recently revised Paleogene zonation), and from the Waipawan to the Bortonian New Zealand stages (i.e., from the base of the Ypresian to the Bartonian international stages). The Mead Stream section thus encompasses 17 m.y. (56–39 Ma) of southwest Pacific Ocean history. The ages of calcareous nannofossil biohorizons are consistent with low- to midlatitude data from the literature, indicating that during the early–middle Eocene, the low- to midlatitude calcareous nannofossil domain extended at least to ∼50°S–55°S in the South Pacific. Correlation of the magnetic polarity stratigraphy from the Mead Stream section with the geomagnetic polarity time scale allows us to derive sediment accumulation rates (SAR), which range between 8 and 44 m/m.y. Comparing the SAR with paleotemperature proxy records, we found that two intervals of increased SAR occurred during the early Eocene climatic optimum (52–50 Ma) and during the transient warming event peaking with the middle Eocene climatic optimum (40.5 Ma). This correlation indicates that, at Mead Stream, the climate evolution of the early–middle Eocene is recorded in a sedimentation pattern whereby, on a million-year time scale, warmer climate promoted continental weathering, transportation, and accumulation of terrigenous sediments.

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