Abstract

In this paper we present a method for estimating soil pCO2 in ancient environments using the measured carbon-isotope values of pedogenic carbonates and plant-derived organic matter. The validity of soil pCO2 estimates proves to be highly dependent on the organic δ13C values used in the calculations. Organic matter should be sourced from the same paleosol profiles as sampled carbonates to yield the most reliable estimates of soil pCO2. In order to demonstrate the potential use of soil pCO2 estimates in paleoecological and paleoenvironmental studies, we compare samples from three Upper Jurassic localities. Soil pCO2 estimates, interpreted as a qualitative indicator of primary paleoproductivity, are used to rank the Late Jurassic terrestrial environments represented by the Morrison Formation in western North America, the informally named Lourinhã formation in Western Europe, and the Stanleyville Group in Central Africa. Because modern terrestrial environments show a positive correlation between primary productivity and faunal richness, a similar relationship is expected in ancient ecosystems. When the relative paleoproductivity levels inferred for each study area are compared with estimates of dinosaur generic richness, a positive correlation emerges. Both the Morrison and Lourinhã formations have high inferred productivity levels and high estimated faunal richness. In contrast, the Stanleyville Group appears to have had low primary productivity and low faunal richness. Paleoclimatic data available for each study area indicate that both productivity and faunal richness are positively linked to water availability, as observed in modern terrestrial ecosystems.

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