The mass extinction at the end of the Permian was a big problem. The largest mass extinction event, which occurred 252 million years ago, wiped out a whopping 90 percent of all marine species and about 70 percent of their terrestrial relatives.
Over the years, numerous efforts have been made to investigate this massive, world-changing event. The late Permian mass extinction coincided with massive eruptions in the Siberian Traps, and some potential scenarios include volcanism that causes acid rain, volcanism that triggers the burning of coal (which releases greenhouse gases into the atmosphere), and a reduction in the availability of oxygen. in the ocean, among others. Nevertheless, a new role It is based on previously unused data and models to deepen the topic.
In total, the study found that 36,000 gigatons of carbon, mostly from volcanic sources, were released into the atmosphere over a relatively short period of 15,000 years. This period also saw the global mean temperature rise by a staggering amount, from 25ºC to 40ºC. While the researchers previously explored volcanism and carbon as possible causes of the mass extinction, this work provides more information on the event, said Wolfram Kürschner, a geologist at the University of Oslo and one of the authors of the paper.
“Until now, it was really difficult to quantify the amount of CO2 that was thrown into the atmosphere, “Kürschner told Ars.
Look to the past
According to Ying Cui, one of the co-authors of the paper and an assistant professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Studies at Montclair State University, the authors studied the matter by looking at specific carbon isotopes of compounds.
These samples were collected from sediments extracted from Norway’s Finnmark shelf, which is located in the eastern part of the Barents offshore shelf. According to Cui, these samples were fairly well preserved and allowed them to observe life-biomarker compounds in the ocean and on land during the critical period.
After looking at the data, the team implemented a series of models that allowed them to look at the source and amount of carbon emissions released during the period. “When you combine [the data and the modeling] together, they become very powerful and can reveal some new ideas that we can’t really tell by looking at these aspects individually, ”Cui told Ars.
Beyond global warming, the increase in CO2 and changes in the carbon cycle could have lowered the pH value of the world’s oceans. This acidification could be partly responsible for the disappearance of marine life forms. In fact, even current levels of ocean acidification with humanity’s carbon emissions (which are relatively mild compared to volcanic eruptions) are causing the shells of some marine deposits. organisms to dissolve.
According to Kürschner, this work could give us an idea of what could happen in the future of the Anthropocene if things get bad enough. The scale of carbon release and temperature rise are very different, but research shows that dramatic warming of the global climate had a dramatic impact on the life that lives on the planet. “I think it’s like a wake-up call,” he said. “Let’s say we have to take care of ourselves.”
PNAS, 2021. DOI: pnas. 2014701118 (About DOIs)