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Extent and duration of marine anoxia during the Frasnian–Famennian (Late Devonian) mass extinction in Poland, Germany, Austria and France

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  • Published online: 01 April 2004

The intensity and extent of anoxia during the two Kellwasser anoxic events has been investigated in a range of European localities using a multidisciplinary approach (pyrite framboid assay, gamma-ray spectrometry and sediment fabric analysis). The results reveal that the development of the Lower Kellwasser Horizon in the early Late rhenana Zone (Frasnian Stage) in German type sections does not always coincide with anoxic events elsewhere in Europe and, in some locations, seafloor oxygenation improves during this interval. Thus, this anoxic event is not universally developed. In contrast, the Upper Kellwasser Horizon, developed in the Late linguiformis Zone (Frasnian Stage) in Germany correlates with a European-wide anoxic event that is manifest as an intensification of anoxia in basinal locations to the point that stable euxinic conditions were developed (for example, in the basins of the Holy Cross Mountains, Poland). The interval also saw the spread of dysoxic waters into very shallow water (for instance, reefal) locations, and it seems reasonable to link the contemporaneous demise of many marine taxa to this phase of intense and widespread anoxia. In basinal locations, euxinic conditions persisted into the earliest Famennian with little change of depositional conditions. Only in the continental margin location of Austria was anoxia not developed at any time in the Late Devonian. Consequently it appears that the Upper Kellwasser anoxic event was an epicontinental seaway phenomenon, caused by the upward expansion of anoxia from deep basinal locales rather than an ‘oceanic’ anoxic event that has spilled laterally into epicontinental settings.

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