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Enhanced terrestrial carbon export from East Antarctica during the early Eocene

Inglis, G.N.; Toney, J.L.; Zhu, J.; Poulsen, C.J.; Rohl, U.; Jamieson, S.S.R.; Pross, J.; Cramwinckel, M.; Krishnan, S.; Pagani, M.; Bijl, P.K.; Bendle, J.

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G.N. Inglis

J.L. Toney

J. Zhu

C.J. Poulsen

U. Rohl

J. Pross

M. Cramwinckel

S. Krishnan

M. Pagani

P.K. Bijl

J. Bendle


Terrestrial organic carbon (TerrOC) acts as an important CO2 sink when transported via rivers to the ocean and sequestered in coastal marine sediments. This mechanism might help to modulate atmospheric CO2 levels over short- and long timescales (103 to 106 years), but its importance during past warm climates remains unknown. Here we use terrestrial biomarkers preserved in coastal marine sediment samples from Wilkes Land, East Antarctica (~67°S) to quantify TerrOC burial during the early Eocene (~54.4 to 51.5 Ma). Terrestrial biomarker distributions indicate the delivery of plant-, soil- and peat-derived organic carbon (OC) into the marine realm. Mass accumulation rates of plant- (long-chain n-alkane) and soil-derived (hopane) biomarkers dramatically increase between the earliest Eocene (~54 Ma) and the early Eocene Climatic Optimum (EECO; ~53 Ma). This coincides with increased OC mass accumulation rates and indicates enhanced TerrOC burial during the EECO. Leaf wax δ 2H values indicate that the EECO was characterised by wetter conditions relative to the earliest Eocene, suggesting that hydroclimate exerts a first-order control on TerrOC export. Our results indicate that TerrOC burial in coastal marine sediments UOB Open could have acted as an important negative feedback mechanism during the early Eocene, but also during other warm climate intervals.


Inglis, G., Toney, J., Zhu, J., Poulsen, C., Rohl, U., Jamieson, S., …Bendle, J. (2022). Enhanced terrestrial carbon export from East Antarctica during the early Eocene. Paleoceanography and Paleoclimatology, 37(2), Article e2021PA004348.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Dec 8, 2021
Online Publication Date Feb 3, 2022
Publication Date Feb 3, 2022
Deposit Date Dec 8, 2021
Publicly Available Date May 19, 2022
Journal Paleoceanography and Paleoclimatology
Publisher American Geophysical Union
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 37
Issue 2
Article Number e2021PA004348


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Copyright Statement
© 2022. The Authors.

This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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