Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Science


Geological and Atmospheric Sciences

First Advisor

German Mora


The dynamics associated with the carbon cycle and the linkage between the oceans, the atmosphere, and land plants provide an opportunity to correlate marine and terrestrial sedimentary sequences using stable isotopes of carbon (delta13C), but few studies have tested this approach. To evaluate the possibility of using carbon isotope ratios of bulk sedimentary organic matter derived from land plants (delta13Cbulk ) as a chronostratigraphic tool, we are comparing the composite Paleocene-Eocene marine carbon-isotope (delta13Ccarbonate) record from Zachos et al., (2001) to that of a terrestrial sequence from Colombia. Sediments of the terrestrial rock units were deposited in a transitional setting dominated by mudstones, coals, and small lenses of sandstones (Catatumbo and Barco Formations) and in a mixture of deltaic and fluvial conditions (Cuervos Formation). The stratigraphic control was based on palynological zones for the region. The delta13Cbulk values for the studied terrestrial sequence show three carbon-isotope excursions, which correlate closely with those present in the marine record. The delta13C bulk values decreased from -24‰ to -26.5‰ in sediments accumulated during early to middle Paleocene. This shift is commonly associated with the slow recovery in marine primary production that occurred in the aftermath of the extinction event of the Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary. The positive shift in sediments accumulated during the late Paleocene shows delta 13Cbulk values increasing from -26.5‰ to -23.8‰. This event is commonly associated with the burial of large amounts of organic matter. The third excursion is found near the Paleocene-Eocene boundary, with values changing from -23.8‰ to -26.5‰. This shift is commonly interpreted to result from a long-term trend toward higher temperatures (52-50 million years ago, M.a.). The analysis of selected biomarker ratios (CPI, Pr/Ph, Paq, betabeta/betabeta+alphabeta hopanes) shows some diagenetic transformation. However, no correlation between diagenesis and delta 13Cbulk values was detected, thus suggesting that delta 13Cbulk could be correlated with delta13C carbonate values. The close correspondence that was found between delta 13Cbulk and delta13Ccarbonate values provides support to the hypothesis that a tight land plant-oceans linkage exists through geologic timescales via the atmosphere.



Digital Repository @ Iowa State University,

Copyright Owner

Humberto Carvajal-Ortiz



Proquest ID


OCLC Number




File Format


File Size

100 pages