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Science. 2011 Jul 22;333(6041):430-4. doi: 10.1126/science.1204255.

Atmospheric carbon injection linked to end-Triassic mass extinction.

Author information

1
Palaeoecology, Institute of Environmental Biology, Faculty of Science, Utrecht University, Budapestlaan 4, NL-3584 CD, Utrecht, Netherlands. micharuhl@gmail.com

Abstract

The end-Triassic mass extinction (~201.4 million years ago), marked by terrestrial ecosystem turnover and up to ~50% loss in marine biodiversity, has been attributed to intensified volcanic activity during the break-up of Pangaea. Here, we present compound-specific carbon-isotope data of long-chain n-alkanes derived from waxes of land plants, showing a ~8.5 per mil negative excursion, coincident with the extinction interval. These data indicate strong carbon-13 depletion of the end-Triassic atmosphere, within only 10,000 to 20,000 years. The magnitude and rate of this carbon-cycle disruption can be explained by the injection of at least ~12 × 10(3) gigatons of isotopically depleted carbon as methane into the atmosphere. Concurrent vegetation changes reflect strong warming and an enhanced hydrological cycle. Hence, end-Triassic events are robustly linked to methane-derived massive carbon release and associated climate change.

PMID:
21778394
DOI:
10.1126/science.1204255
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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