Chemostratigraphy of the Paleoproterozoic Duitschland Formation, South Africa: Implications for coupled climate change and carbon cycling

Andrey Bekker, Alan J. Kaufman, Juha A. Karhu, Nicolas J. Beukes, Quinten D. Swart, Louis L. Coetzee, Kenneth A. Eriksson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

193 Citations (Scopus)


The Paleoproterozoic Duitschland Formation lies stratigraphically beneath the Timeball Hill Formation, which contains the only unequivocal glacial unit of this era in the Transvaal Basin, South Africa. Lithologic evidence in Paleoproterozoic successions of North America, however, indicates the existence of three discrete and potentially global ice ages within this 300 my interval. Carbonates of the Duitschland Formation are significantly enriched in 13C up to +10.1 permil in the upper part of the succession above a notable sequence boundary. In contrast, the lower part of this unit contains carbonates with consistently negative δ13C values. Trace and major element compositions of these carbonates as well as carbon-isotopic compositions of coexisting organic matter support a primary origin for the markedly positive carbon isotope anomaly. The stratigraphic constraints indicate that 13C-enriched carbonates were deposited prior to Faleoproterozoic glaciation in southern Africa, similar to carbonates stratigraphically beneath Neoproterozoic glacial diamictites worldwide. Also mirroring the Neoproterozoic record are strongly negative δ13C values in cap carbonates atop glacial diamictites in Paleoproterozoic strata of Wyoming and Ontario. The litho- and chemostratigraphic constraints indicate that the interval of negative carbon isotope values in well-preserved carbonates of the lower Duitschland Formation may reflect a second Paleoproterozoic ice age in the Transvaal succession. This interpretation is further supported by recently discovered bullet-shaped clasts with striations in diamictite from the basal part of the succession. Thus, the emerging temporal pattern of carbon isotope variations and glaciation in the Paleoproterozoic has a close analogue to Neoproterozoic events, suggesting a coupling of climatic and biogeochemical changes at both ends of the eon.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)261-285
Number of pages25
JournalAmerican Journal of Science
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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