Papers on end-Permian mass extinction and climate
Posted by Ari Jokimäki on January 12, 2012
This is a list of papers that discuss the role of climate in end-Permian mass extinction. The list is not complete, and will most likely be updated in future in order to make it more thorough and more representative.
Calibrating the End-Permian Mass Extinction – Shen et al. (2011) “The end-Permian mass extinction was the most severe biodiversity crisis in Earth history. To better constrain the timing, and ultimately the causes of this event, we collected a suite of geochronologic, isotopic, and biostratigraphic data on several well-preserved sedimentary sections in South China. High-precision U-Pb dating reveals that the extinction peak occurred just before 252.28 ± 0.08 million years ago, after a decline of 2 per mil (‰) in δ13C over 90,000 years, and coincided with a δ13C excursion of −5‰ that is estimated to have lasted ≤20,000 years. The extinction interval was less than 200,000 years and synchronous in marine and terrestrial realms; associated charcoal-rich and soot-bearing layers indicate widespread wildfires on land. A massive release of thermogenic carbon dioxide and/or methane may have caused the catastrophic extinction.” Shu-zhong Shen, James L. Crowley, Yue Wang, Samuel A. Bowring, Douglas H. Erwin, Peter M. Sadler, Chang-qun Cao, Daniel H. Rothman, Charles M. Henderson, Jahandar Ramezani, Hua Zhang, Yanan Shen, Xiang-dong Wang, Wei Wang, Lin Mu, Wen-zhong Li, Yue-gang Tang, Xiao-lei Liu, Lu-jun Liu, Yong Zeng, Yao-fa Jiang, Yu-gan Jin, Science 9 December 2011: Vol. 334 no. 6061 pp. 1367-1372, DOI: 10.1126/science.1213454.
Carbon-isotope stratigraphy across the Permian–Triassic boundary: A review – Korte & Kozur (2010) “The Palaeozoic–Mesozoic transition is marked by distinct perturbations in the global carbon cycle resulting in a prominent negative carbon-isotope excursion at the Permian–Triassic (P–T) boundary, well known from a plethora of marine and continental sediments. Potential causes for this negative δ13C trend (and their links to the latest Permian mass extinction) have been intensively debated in the literature. In order to draw conclusions regarding causation, a general δ13C curve was defined after consideration of all available datasets and with due reference to the biostratigraphic background. The most important features of the P–T carbon-isotope trend are the following: the 4–7‰ δ13C decline (lasting ∼500,000 years) is gradual and began in the Changhsingian at the stratigraphic level of the C. bachmanni Zone. The decreasing trend is interrupted by a short-term positive event that starts at about the latest Permian low-latitude marine main extinction event horizon (=EH), indicating that the extinction itself cannot have caused the negative carbon-isotope excursion. After this short-term positive excursion, the δ13C decline continues to a first minimum at about the P–T boundary. A subsequent slight increase is followed by a second (occasionally two-peaked) minimum in the lower (and middle) I. isarcica Zone. The negative carbon-isotope excursion was most likely a consequence of a combination of different causes that may include: (1) direct and indirect effects of the Siberian Trap and contemporaneous volcanism and (2) anoxic deep waters occasionally reaching very shallow sea levels. A sudden release of isotopically light methane from oceanic sediment piles or permafrost soils as a source for the negative carbon-isotope trend is questionable at least for the time span a little below the EH and somewhat above the P–T boundary.” Christoph Korte, Heinz W. Kozur, Journal of Asian Earth Sciences, Volume 39, Issue 4, 9 September 2010, Pages 215-235, doi:10.1016/j.jseaes.2010.01.005.
Massive volcanism at the Permian–Triassic boundary and its impact on the isotopic composition of the ocean and atmosphere – Korte et al. (2010) “Bulk carbonate and conodonts from three Permian–Triassic (P–T) boundary sections at Guryul Ravine (Kashmir), Abadeh (central Iran) and Pufels/Bula/Bulla (Italy) were investigated for δ13C and δ18O. Carbon isotope data highlight environmental changes across the P–T boundary and show the following features: (1) a gradual decrease of ∼4‰ to more than 7‰ starting in the Late Permian (Changhsingian) C. bachmanni Zone, with two superimposed transient positive excursions in the C. meishanensis–H. praeparvus and the M. ultima–S. ? mostleri Zones; (2) two δ13C minima, the first at the P–T boundary and a higher, occasionally double-minimum in the lower I. isarcica Zone. It is unlikely that the short-lived phenomena, such as a breakdown in biological productivity due to catastrophic mass extinction, a sudden release of oceanic methane hydrates or meteorite impact(s), could have been the main control on the latest Permian carbon isotope curve because of its prolonged (0.5 Ma) duration, gradual decrease and the existence of a >1‰ positive shift at the main extinction horizon. The P–T boundary δ13C trend matches in time and magnitude the eruption of the Siberian Traps and other contemporaneous volcanism, suggesting that volcanogenic effects, such as outgassed CO2 from volcanism and, even more, thermal metamorphism of organic-rich sediments, as the likely cause of the negative trend.” Christoph Korte, Prabhas Pande, P. Kalia, Heinz W. Kozur, Michael M. Joachimski, Hedi Oberhänsli, Journal of Asian Earth Sciences, Volume 37, Issue 4, 1 March 2010, Pages 293-311, doi:10.1016/j.jseaes.2009.08.012.
Illawarra Reversal: The fingerprint of a superplume that triggered Pangean breakup and the end-Guadalupian (Permian) mass extinction – Isozaki (2009) “The Permian magnetostratigraphic record demonstrates that a remarkable change in geomagnetism occurred in the Late Guadalupian (Middle Permian; ca. 265 Ma) from the long-term stable Kiaman Reverse Superchron (throughout the Late Carboniferous and Early-Middle Permian) to the Permian–Triassic Mixed Superchron with frequent polarity changes (in the Late Permian and Triassic). This unique episode called the Illawarra Reversal probably reflects a significant change in the geodynamo in the outer core of the planet after a 50 million years of stable geomagnetism. The Illawarra Reversal was likely led by the appearance of a thermal instability at the 2900 km-deep core–mantle boundary in connection with mantle superplume activity. The Illawarra Reversal and the Guadalupian–Lopingian boundary event record the significant transition processes from the Paleozoic to Mesozoic–Modern world. One of the major global environmental changes in the Phanerozoic occurred almost simultaneously in the latest Guadalupian, as recorded in 1) mass extinction, 2) ocean redox change, 3) sharp isotopic excursions (C and Sr), 4) sea-level drop, and 5) plume-related volcanism. In addition to the claimed possible links between the above-listed environmental changes and mantle superplume activity, I propose here an extra explanation that a change in the core’s geodynamo may have played an important role in determining the course of the Earth’s surface climate and biotic extinction/evolution. When a superplume is launched from the core–mantle boundary, the resultant thermal instability makes the geodynamo’s dipole of the outer core unstable, and lowers the geomagnetic intensity. Being modulated by the geo- and heliomagnetism, the galactic cosmic ray flux into the Earth’s atmosphere changes with time. The more cosmic rays penetrate through the atmosphere, the more clouds develop to increase the albedo, thus enhancing cooling of the Earth’s surface. The Illawarra Reversal, the Kamura cooling event, and other unique geologic phenomena in the Late Guadalupian are all concordantly explained as consequences of the superplume activity that initially triggered the breakup of Pangea. The secular change in cosmic radiation may explain not only the extinction-related global climatic changes in the end-Guadalupian but also the long-term global warming/cooling trend in Earth’s history in terms of cloud coverage over the planet.” Yukio Isozaki, Gondwana Research, Volume 15, Issues 3-4, June 2009, Pages 421-432, Special Issue: Supercontinent Dynamics, doi:10.1016/j.gr.2008.12.007.
Elevated atmospheric CO2 and the delayed biotic recovery from the end-Permian mass extinction – Fraiser & Bottjer (2007) “Excessive CO2 in the Earth ocean–atmosphere system may have been a significant factor in causing the end-Permian mass extinction. CO2 injected into the atmosphere by the Siberian Traps has been postulated as a major factor leading to the end-Permian mass extinction by facilitating global warming, widespread ocean stratification, and development of anoxic, euxinic and CO2-rich deep waters. A broad incursion of this toxic deep water into the surface ocean may have caused this mass extinction. Although previous studies of the role of excessive CO2 have focused on these “bottom-up” effects emanating from the deep ocean, “top-down” effects of increasing atmosphere CO2 concentrations on ocean-surface waters and biota have not previously been explored. Passive diffusion of atmospheric CO2 into ocean-surface waters decreases the pH and CaCO3 saturation state of seawater, causing a physiological and biocalcification crisis for many marine invertebrates. While both “bottom-up” and “top-down” mechanisms may have contributed to the relatively short-term biotic devastation of the end-Permian mass extinction, such a “top-down” physiological and biocalcification crisis would have had long-term effects and might have contributed to the protracted 5- to 6-million-year-long delay in biotic recovery following this mass extinction. Earth’s Modern marine biota may experience similar “top-down” CO2 stresses if anthropogenic input of atmosphere/ocean CO2 continues to rise.” Margaret L. Fraiser, David J. Bottjer, Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, Volume 252, Issues 1-2, 20 August 2007, Pages 164-175, The Permian-Triassic Boundary Crisis and Early Triassic Biotic Recovery, doi:10.1016/j.palaeo.2006.11.041.
Paleophysiology and end-Permian mass extinction – Knoll et al. (2007) “Physiological research aimed at understanding current global change provides a basis for evaluating selective survivorship associated with Permo-Triassic mass extinction. Comparative physiology links paleontological and paleoenvironmental observations, supporting the hypothesis that an end-Permian trigger, most likely Siberian Trap volcanism, touched off a set of physically-linked perturbations that acted synergistically to disrupt the metabolisms of latest Permian organisms. Global warming, anoxia, and toxic sulfide probably all contributed to end-Permian mass mortality, but hypercapnia (physiological effects of elevated PCO2) best accounts for the selective survival of marine invertebrates. Paleophysiological perspectives further suggest that persistent or recurring hypercapnia/global warmth also played a principal role in delayed Triassic recovery. More generally, physiology provides an important way of paleobiological knowing in the age of Earth system science.” Andrew H. Knoll, Richard K. Bambach, Jonathan L. Payne, Sara Pruss, Woodward W. Fischer, Earth and Planetary Science Letters, Volume 256, Issues 3-4, 30 April 2007, Pages 295-313, doi:10.1016/j.epsl.2007.02.018. [Full text]
End-Permian mass extinction pattern in the northern peri-Gondwanan region – Shen et al. (2007) “The Permian-Triassic extinction pattern in the peri-Gondwanan region is documented biostratigraphically, geochemically and sedimentologically based on three marine sequences deposited in southern Tibet and comparisons with the sections in the Salt Range, Pakistan and Kashmir. Results of biostratigraphical ranges for the marine faunas reveal an end-Permian event comparable in timing with that known at the Meishan section in low palaeolatitude as well as Spitsbergen and East Greenland in northern Boreal settings although biotic patterns earlier in the Permian vary. The previously interpreted delayed extinction (Late Griesbachian) at the Selong Xishan section is not supported by our analysis. The end-Permian event exhibits an abrupt marine faunal shift slightly beneath the Permian-Triassic boundary (PTB) from benthic taxa- to nektic taxa-dominated communities. The climate along the continental margin of Neo-Tethys was cold before the extinction event. However, a rapid climatic warming event as indicated by the southward invasion of abundant warm-water conodonts, warm-water brachiopods, calcareous sponges, and gastropods was associated with the extinction event. Stable isotopic values of δ13Ccarb, δ13Corg and δ18O show a sharp negative drop slightly before and during the extinction interval. Sedimentological and microstratigraphical analysis reveals a Late Permian regression, as marked by a Caliche Bed at the Selong Xishan section and the micaceous siltstone in the topmost part of the Qubuerga Formation at the Qubu and Tulong sections. The regression was immediately followed by a rapid transgression beneath the PTB. The basal Triassic rocks fine upward, and are dominated by dolomitic packstone/wackestone containing pyritic cubes, bioturbation and numerous tiny foraminifers, suggesting that the studied sections were deposited during the initial stage of the transgression and hence may not have been deeply affected by the anoxic event that is widely believed to characterise the zenith of the transgression.” Shu Zhong Shen, Chang-Qun Cao, Charles M. Henderson, Xiang-Dong Wang, Guang R. Shi, Yue Wang, Wei Wang, Palaeoworld, Volume 15, Issue 1, January 2006, Pages 3-30, doi:10.1016/j.palwor.2006.03.005. [Full text]
Middle-Late Permian mass extinction on land – Retallack et al. (2006) “The end-Permian mass extinction has been envisaged as the nadir of biodiversity decline due to increasing volcanic gas emissions over some 9 million years. We propose a different tempo and mechanism of extinction because we recognize two separate but geologically abrupt mass extinctions on land, one terminating the Middle Permian (Guadalupian) at 260.4 Ma and a later one ending the Permian Period at 251 Ma. Our evidence comes from new paleobotanical, paleopedological, and carbon isotopic studies of Portal Mountain, Antarctica, and comparable studies in the Karoo Basin, South Africa. Extinctions have long been apparent among marine invertebrates at both the end of the Guadalupian and end of the Permian, which were also times of warm-wet greenhouse climatic transients, marked soil erosion, transition from high- to low-sinuosity and braided streams, soil stagnation in wetlands, and profound negative carbon isotope anomalies. Both mass extinctions may have resulted from catastrophic methane outbursts to the atmosphere from coal intruded by feeder dikes to flood basalts, such as the end-Guadalupian Emeishan Basalt and end-Permian Siberian Traps.” Gregory J. Retallack, Christine A. Metzger, Tara Greaver, A. Hope Jahren, Roger M.H. Smith and Nathan D. Sheldon, GSA Bulletin, v. 118 no. 11-12 p. 1398-1411, doi: 10.1130/B26011.1. [Full text]
Climate simulation of the latest Permian: Implications for mass extinction – Kiehl & Shields (2005) “Life at the Permian-Triassic boundary (ca. 251 Ma) underwent the largest disruption in Earth’s history. Paleoclimatic data indicate that Earth was significantly warmer than present and that much of the ocean was anoxic or euxinic for an extended period of time. We present results from the first fully coupled comprehensive climate model using paleogeography for this time period. The coupled climate system model simulates warm high-latitude surface air temperatures related to elevated carbon dioxide levels and a stagnate global ocean circulation in concert with paleodata indicating low oxygen levels at ocean depth. This is the first climate simulation that captures these observed features of this time period.” Jeffrey T. Kiehl and Christine A. Shields, Geology, v. 33 no. 9 p. 757-760, doi: 10.1130/G21654.1. [Full text]
How to kill (almost) all life: the end-Permian extinction event – Benton & Twitchett (2003) “The biggest mass extinction of the past 600 million years (My), the end-Permian event (251 My ago), witnessed the loss of as much as 95% of all species on Earth. Key questions for biologists concern what combination of environmental changes could possibly have had such a devastating effect, the scale and pattern of species loss, and the nature of the recovery. New studies on dating the event, contemporary volcanic activity, and the anatomy of the environmental crisis have changed our perspectives dramatically in the past five years. Evidence on causation is equivocal, with support for either an asteroid impact or mass volcanism, but the latter seems most probable. The extinction model involves global warming by 6°C and huge input of light carbon into the ocean-atmosphere system from the eruptions, but especially from gas hydrates, leading to an ever-worsening positive-feedback loop, the ‘runaway greenhouse’.” Michael J. Benton, Richard J. Twitchett, Trends in Ecology & Evolution, Volume 18, Issue 7, July 2003, Pages 358-365, doi:10.1016/S0169-5347(03)00093-4. [Full text]
Land-plant diversity and the end-Permian mass extinction – Rees (2002) “The Permian and Triassic represent a time of major global climate change from icehouse to hothouse conditions and significant (∼25°) northward motion of landmasses amalgamated in essentially one supercontinent, Pangea. The greatest of all mass extinctions occurred around the Permian-Triassic boundary (251 Ma), although there is no consensus regarding the cause(s). Recent studies have suggested a meteor impact and worldwide die-off of vegetation, on the basis of sparse local observations. However, new analyses of global Permian and Triassic plant data in a paleogeographic context show that the scale and timing of effects varied markedly between regions. The patterns are best explained by differences in geography, climate, and fossil preservation, not by catastrophic events. Caution should be exercised when extrapolating local observations to global-scale interpretations. At the other extreme, global compilations of biotic change through time can be misleading if the effects of geography, climate, and preservation bias are not considered.” P. McAllister Rees, Geology, v. 30 no. 9 p. 827-830, doi: 10.1130/0091-7613(2002)0302.0.CO;2. [Full text]
Ocean stagnation and end-Permian anoxia – Hotinski et al. (2001) “Ocean stagnation has been invoked to explain the widespread occurrence of organic-carbon–rich, laminated sediments interpreted to have been deposited under anoxic bottom waters at the time of the end-Permian mass extinction. However, to a first approximation, stagnation would severely reduce the upwelling supply of nutrients to the photic zone, reducing productivity. Moreover, it is not obvious that ocean stagnation can be achieved. Numerical experiments performed with a three-dimensional global ocean model linked to a biogeochemical model of phosphate and oxygen cycling indicate that a low equator to pole temperature gradient could have produced weak oceanic circulation and widespread anoxia in the Late Permian ocean. We find that polar warming and tropical cooling of sea-surface temperatures cause anoxia throughout the deep ocean as a result of both lower dissolved oxygen in bottom source waters and increased nutrient utilization. Buildup of quantities of H2S and CO2 in the Late Permian ocean sufficient to directly cause a mass extinction, however, would have required large increases in the oceanic nutrient inventory.” Roberta M. Hotinski, Karen L. Bice, Lee R. Kump, Raymond G. Najjar and Michael A. Arthur, Geology, v. 29 no. 1 p. 7-10, doi: 10.1130/0091-7613(2001)0292.0.CO;2. [Full text]
Pattern of Marine Mass Extinction Near the Permian-Triassic Boundary in South China – Jin et al. (2000) “The Meishan section across the Permian-Triassic boundary in South China is the most thoroughly investigated in the world. A statistical analysis of the occurrences of 162 genera and 333 species confirms a sudden extinction event at 251.4 million years ago, coincident with a dramatic depletion of δ13Ccarbonate and an increase in microspherules.” Y. G. Jin, Y. Wang, W. Wang, Q. H. Shang, C. Q. Cao and D. H. Erwin, Science 21 July 2000: Vol. 289 no. 5478 pp. 432-436, DOI: 10.1126/science.289.5478.432. [Full text]
U/Pb Zircon Geochronology and Tempo of the End-Permian Mass Extinction – Bowring et al. (1998) “The mass extinction at the end of the Permian was the most profound in the history of life. Fundamental to understanding its cause is determining the tempo and duration of the extinction. Uranium/lead zircon data from Late Permian and Early Triassic rocks from south China place the Permian-Triassic boundary at 251.4 ± 0.3 million years ago. Biostratigraphic controls from strata intercalated with ash beds below the boundary indicate that the Changhsingian pulse of the end-Permian extinction, corresponding to the disappearance of about 85 percent of marine species, lasted less than 1 million years. At Meishan, a negative excursion in δ13C at the boundary had a duration of 165,000 years or less, suggesting a catastrophic addition of light carbon.” S. A. Bowring, D. H. Erwin, Y. G. Jin, M. W. Martin, K. Davidek and W. Wang, Science 15 May 1998: Vol. 280 no. 5366 pp. 1039-1045, DOI: 10.1126/science.280.5366.1039.
Oceanic Anoxia and the End Permian Mass Extinction – Wignall & Twitchett (1996) “Data on rocks from Spitsbergen and the equatorial sections of Italy and Slovenia indicate that the world’s oceans became anoxic at both low and high paleolatitudes in the Late Permian. Such conditions may have been responsible for the mass extinction at this time. This event affected a wide range of shelf depths and extended into shallow water well above the storm wave base.” Paul B. Wignall, Richard J. Twitchett, Science 24 May 1996: Vol. 272 no. 5265 pp. 1155-1158, DOI: 10.1126/science.272.5265.1155.
Comparative Earth History and Late Permian Mass Extinction – Knoll et al. (1996) “The repeated association during the late Neoproterozoic Era of large carbon-isotopic excursions, continental glaciation, and stratigraphically anomalous carbonate precipitation provides a framework for interpreting the reprise of these conditions on the Late Permian Earth. A paleoceanographic model that was developed to explain these stratigraphically linked phenomena suggests that the overturn of anoxic deep oceans during the Late Permian introduced high concentrations of carbon dioxide into surficial environments. The predicted physiological and climatic consequences for marine and terrestrial organisms are in good accord with the observed timing and selectivity of Late Permian mass extinction.” A. H. Knoll, R. K. Bambach, D. E. Canfield, J. P. Grotzinger, Science 26 July 1996: Vol. 273 no. 5274 pp. 452-457, DOI: 10.1126/science.273.5274.452.
Synchrony and Causal Relations Between Permian-Triassic Boundary Crises and Siberian Flood Volcanism – Renne et al. (1995) “The Permian-Triassic boundary records the most severe mass extinctions in Earth’s history. Siberian flood volcanism, the most profuse known such subaerial event, produced 2 million to 3 million cubic kilometers of volcanic ejecta in approximately 1 million years or less. Analysis of 40Ar/39Ar data from two tuffs in southern China yielded a date of 250.0 ± 0.2 million years ago for the Permian-Triassic boundary, which is comparable to the inception of main stage Siberian flood volcanism at 250.0 ± 0.3 million years ago. Volcanogenic sulfate aerosols and the dynamic effects of the Siberian plume likely contributed to environmental extrema that led to the mass extinctions.” Paul R. Renne, Michael T. Black, Zhang Zichao, Mark A. Richards and Asish R. Basu, Science 8 September 1995: Vol. 269 no. 5229 pp. 1413-1416, DOI: 10.1126/science.269.5229.1413. [Full text]
Synchronism of the Siberian Traps and the Permian-Triassic Boundary – Campbell et al. (1992) “Uranium-lead ages from an ion probe were taken for zircons from the ore-bearing Noril’sk I intrusion that is comagmatic with, and intrusive to, the Siberian Traps. These values match, within an experimental error of ±4 million years, the dates for zircons extracted from a tuff at the Permian-Triassic (P-Tr) boundary. The results are consistent with the hypothesis that the P-Tr extinction was caused by the Siberian basaltic flood volcanism. It is likely that the eruption of these magmas was accompanied by the injection of large amounts of sulfur dioxide into the upper atmosphere, which may have led to global cooling and to expansion of the polar ice cap. The P-Tr extinction event may have been caused by a combination of acid rain and global cooling as well as rapid and extreme changes in sea level resulting from expansion of the polar ice cap.” I. H. Campbell, G. K. Czamanske, V. A. Fedorenko, R. I. Hill and V. Stepanov, Science 11 December 1992: Vol. 258 no. 5089 pp. 1760-1763, DOI: 10.1126/science.258.5089.1760.
The End-Permian mass extinction: What really happened and did it matter? – Erwin (1989) “Marine communities of the Paleozoic differ markedly from those of the post-Paleozoic, a dichotomy long recognized as the most fundamental change between the Cambrian metazoan radiation and the present. The end-Permian mass extinction of about 54% of marine families eliminated many of the groups that dominated Paleozoic communities. Correlative changes occurred in terrestrial vertebrate and plant communities, but there is no clear evidence that these changes are related to the marine extinction. The marine extinction occurred during a period of physical change, and a variety of extinction mechanisms have been proposed, most related to a major Late Permian marine regression or to climatic changes. Unfortunately, the regression has made it difficult to gather data on the rate, timing and pattern of extinction, and the available data exclude only a few hypotheses. Thus the largest mass extinction, and the one with the greatest evolutionary importance, is also the most poorly understood.” Douglas H. Erwin, Trends in Ecology & Evolution, Volume 4, Issue 8, August 1989, Pages 225–229, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/0169-5347(89)90165-1.