Great Oxidation and Lomagundi events linked by deep cycling and enhanced degassing of carbon
James Eguchi, Johnny Seales, and Rajdeep Dasgupta
For approximately the first 2 billion years of the Earth’s history, atmospheric oxygen levels were extremely low. It was not until at least half a billion years after the evolution of oxygenic photosynthesis, perhaps as early as 3 billion years ago, that oxygen rose to appreciable levels during the Great Oxidation Event. Shortly after, marine carbonates underwent a large positive spike in carbon isotope ratios known as the Lomagundi event. The mechanisms responsible for the Great Oxidation and Lomagundi events remain debated. Using a carbon–oxygen box model that tracks the Earth’s surface and interior carbon fluxes and reservoirs, while also tracking carbon isotopes and atmospheric oxygen levels, we demonstrate that about 2.5 billion years ago a tectonic transition that resulted in increased volcanic CO2 emissions could have led to increased deposition of both carbonates and organic carbon (organic C) via enhanced weathering and nutrient delivery to oceans. Increased burial of carbonates and organic C would have allowed the accumulation of atmospheric oxygen while also increasing the delivery of carbon to subduction zones. Coupled with preferential release of carbonates at arc volcanoes and deep recycling of organic C to ocean island volcanoes, we find that such a tectonic transition can simultaneously explain the Great Oxidation and Lomagundi events without any change in the fraction of carbon buried as organic C relative to carbonate, which is often invoked to explain carbon isotope excursions.
James Eguchi, Johnny Seales, & Rajdeep Dasgupta (2019). Great oxidation and Lomagundi events linked by deep cycling and increased degassing of carbon. Nature Geoscience. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41561-019-0492-6