Early Eocene Palynology from Mead Stream, New Zealand
This study documents the first detailed palynological analysis of early Eocene strata from the Lower Marl unit at Mead Stream, southern Marlborough, New Zealand. Examination of marine palynomorph assemblages and palynofacies analysis were used to improve biostratigraphic resolution and investigate paleoclimate across the Early Eocene Climatic Optimum (EECO; ~53–49 Ma)—a period characterised by the highest temperatures of the Paleogene. Early Eocene New Zealand dinocyst zones from NZE2–NZE4, and the Charlesdowniea coleothrypta zone are established across the Lower Marl for the first time in this study. Marine palynomorph assemblages originating in outer-neritic conditions and deposited on the upper slope represent low energy transport along the margin of a terrestrial discharge plume. Palynomorph assemblages do not provide insight into sea surface temperature (SST) trends. Palynomorph assemblages may reflect extremely low surface productivity. Cycles in organic matter between marine-dominant limestones to terrestrial-dominant marls, controlled by changes in temperature and seasonal precipitation, may represent orbital forcing by way of precession cycles; however the limited range of high resolution data from this study cannot statistically confirm this. An overall increase of allochthonous organic matter across the Lower Marl is likely representative of long-term background warming, culminating in peak EECO temperatures. The base of a hyperthermal, represented by carbon isotope excursion (CIE) previously identified at Mead Stream has been redefined in this study. High abundances of warm water, extreme salinity taxa coincide with the onset of this warming event.