Long-term cycles in Earth’s climate are thought to be primarily controlled by changes in atmospheric CO2 concentrations. Changes in carbon emissions from volcanic activity can create an imbalance in the carbon cycle. Large-scale changes in volcanic activity have been inferred from proxies such as the age abundance of detrital zircons, but the magnitude of carbon emissions depends on the style of volcanism as well as the amount. Here we analyse U–Pb age and trace element data of detrital zircons from Antarctica and compare the results with the global rock record. We identify a spike in CO2-rich carbonatite and alkaline magmatism during the Ediacaran period. Before the Ediacaran, secular cooling of the mantle and the advent of cooler subduction regimes promoted the sequestration of carbon derived from decarbonation of subducting oceanic slabs in the mantle. We infer that subsequent magmatism led to the extensive release of carbon that may at least in part be recorded in the Shuram–Wonoka carbon isotope excursion. We therefore suggest that this pulse of alkaline volcanism reflects a profound reorganization of the Neoproterozoic deep and surface carbon cycles and promoted planetary warming before the Cambrian radiation.
Nature Geoscience – Springer Journals
Published: Nov 27, 2017
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