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Science. 2015 Apr 10;348(6231):229-32. doi: 10.1126/science.aaa0193.

Ocean acidification and the Permo-Triassic mass extinction.

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School of Geosciences, University of Edinburgh, West Mains Road, Edinburgh EH9 3FE, UK.
Faculty of Geosciences and MARUM-Center for Marine Environmental Sciences, University of Bremen, 28334 Bremen, Germany.
School of Geosciences, University of Edinburgh, West Mains Road, Edinburgh EH9 3FE, UK.
College of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Exeter, Laver Building, North Parks Road, Exeter EX4 4QE, UK.
Institute of Earth Sciences, NAWI Graz, University of Graz, Heinrichstraße 26, 8010 Graz, Austria.
School of Earth and Environment, University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9JT, UK.
Department of Earth Sciences, University of Cambridge, Downing Street, Cambridge CB2 3EQ, UK.


Ocean acidification triggered by Siberian Trap volcanism was a possible kill mechanism for the Permo-Triassic Boundary mass extinction, but direct evidence for an acidification event is lacking. We present a high-resolution seawater pH record across this interval, using boron isotope data combined with a quantitative modeling approach. In the latest Permian, increased ocean alkalinity primed the Earth system with a low level of atmospheric CO2 and a high ocean buffering capacity. The first phase of extinction was coincident with a slow injection of carbon into the atmosphere, and ocean pH remained stable. During the second extinction pulse, however, a rapid and large injection of carbon caused an abrupt acidification event that drove the preferential loss of heavily calcified marine biota.

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