Stable isotopic results from paleosol carbonate in South Asia: Paleoenvironmental reconstructions and selective alteration

Andrew Leier, Jay Quade, P. DeCelles, P. Kapp

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We measured δ18O and δ13C values of paleosol carbonate nodules from a variety of sedimentary units in southern Asia in order to reconstruct paleoenvironmental conditions and to evaluate for possible diagenetic alteration. Paleosol carbonate nodules were collected from Lower to Upper Cretaceous strata exposed in two locations in southern Tibet, and from Lower to Middle Miocene strata in northern India and Nepal. Additional samples were collected from stratigraphically adjacent marine carbonate units to test for possible resetting of stable isotope values. Based on the implausibly low δ18O values (∼ - 13‰) of most of the marine carbonate samples, we interpret the δ18O values of the associated paleosol carbonate nodules as being reset, and therefore unreliable for paleoenvironmental or paleoelevation reconstruction. Importantly, the δ18O values of both marine and nonmarine carbonate samples have been altered irrespective of texture, including micritic fabrics, suggesting textural criteria alone are insufficient to determine whether primary stable isotope values have been altered. In contrast, δ13C values of marine carbonate rocks fall within the expected primary isotopic range, and so by association we interpret the δ13C values of paleosol carbonate from the same sections to have been unaffected by diagenesis. Using the δ13C values of paleosol carbonate nodules from Cretaceous strata in southern Tibet, atmospheric pCO2 is estimated to have been 1400-2000 ppmV between 130-120 Ma, and 2600-3200 ppmV between 100-90 Ma, consistent with previous estimates of pCO2 for these time periods. Paleosol carbonate nodules within early to middle Miocene strata in northern India and Nepal have average δ13C values of - 10.4‰, indicating virtually pure C3 vegetation and lower pCO2.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)242-254
Number of pages13
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Mar 30 2009



  • carbon isotope
  • marine carbonate
  • oxygen isotope
  • paleoelevation
  • paleosol carbonate

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science

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