The faunal expression of the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM) is well documented in deep-sea sediments. However, few studies have examined continental margin sections, especially active margins. The Moreno and Lodo formations, Central California, were deposited along the eastern margin of a north-south trending forearc basin on the convergent margin of California during the Cretaceous through Late Cenozoic. The Tumey Gulch section which includes the Moreno and Lodo formations, is 80 m thick, contains the Paleocene-Eocene boundary and Carbon Isotope Excursion (CIE), and was deposited at abyssal to lower bathyal depths along an active continental margin. Benthic foraminiferal assemblages from this section record faunal changes related to the PETM and a younger hyperthermal, ETM3 which include a disruption of the gradual shallowing of water depths and fluctuation of the CCD. Associated with the onset of the hyperthermals in this section is a red clay-siltstone layer (low calcium carbonate content) and an increase in smoothly finished dissolution resistant agglutinated benthic foraminiferal species which corresponds with a rapid shoaling of the CCD. The subsequent overcompensation is identified by a rapid change to shallower benthic biofacies faunas, increased sediment rate, current activity, and terrestrial organic matter which is associated with increased weathering.
Further analysis of the foraminiferal faunas identified the benthic foraminiferal extinction event (BEE), deep water agglutinated faunal acmes, and fluctuations in the calcareous foraminiferal assemblages which indicate changes in the paleoenvironmental conditions (e.g. dissolved oxygen, sedimentation rates and current activity, and the influx of organic carbon) during the PETM and ETM3. The Ynezian, Bulitian, and Penutian California benthic foraminiferal stages are recognized in the Tumey Gulch section as well as the benthic foraminiferal extinction event (BEE) which occurs at the onset of the PETM and is distinguished by the last appearance of Paleocene species and the first appearance of many Eocene species. Agglutinated foraminiferal species dominate the late Paleocene through early Eocene part of the section indicating deposition occurred at abyssal depths below the CCD and that the environment was oligotrophic with moderate to low organic flux. The Glomospira acme zone is recognized at the base of the CIE and just above the top of red clay-siltstone layer and suggests increased terrestrial organic matter and elevated sedimentation rates. The abundance of calcareous species, specifically Bulimina alazanensis, followed by the appearance of opportunistic taxa (Tappanina and Quadrimorphina) in the PETM interval indicates deposition within the lower bathyal biofacies and a drop in the depth of the CCD. Eocene species characteristic of the Survivor faunal group (Anomalinoides, Bulimina, Cibicidoides, and Pleurostomella) appear above this event. Foraminiferal assemblages dominated by agglutinated foraminifera appear in sediments overlying the PETM interval and indicate deposition occurred at abyssal depths and below the CCD. Calcareous foraminiferal assemblages appear higher in the section as water depths decrease. The presence of a second red clay-siltstone layer associated with a second isotope excursion and faunal changes in the upper part of the section indicate the presence of another hyperthermal, ETM3.