Friday, March 29, 2013

Carbon Isotopes From Alps Hint at Major Pulse in Permian Extinction

Carbon isotope signatures of latest Permian marine successions of the Southern Alps suggest a continental runoff pulse enriched in land plant material


1. Sonja H. Kraus (a)
2. Rainer Brandner (b)
3. Christoph Heubeck (a)
4. Heinz W. Kozur (c)
5. Ulrich Struck (d)
6. Christoph Korte (a,e)


a. Institut für Geologische Wissenschaften, Freie Universität Berlin, Malteserstr. 74–100, 12249 Berlin, Germany

b. Institut für Geologie und Paläontologie, Universität Innsbruck, Innrain 52, 6020 Innsbruck, Austria

c. Rézsü u. 83, 1029 Budapest, Hungary

d. Museum für Naturkunde, Leibniz-Institut für Evolutions- und Biodiversitätsforschung, Invalidenstraße 43, 10115 Berlin, Germany

e. Department of Geography and Geology & Nordic Center for Earth Evolution (NordCEE), University of Copenhagen, Øster Voldgade 10, 1350 Copenhagen K, Denmark


The latest Permian mass extinction, the most severe Phanerozoic biotic crisis, is marked by dramatic changes in palaeoenvironments. These changes significantly disrupted the global carbon cycle, reflected by a prominent and well known negative carbon isotope excursion recorded in marine and continental sediments. Carbon isotope trends of bulk carbonate and bulk organic matter in marine deposits of the European Southern Alps near the low-latitude marine event horizon deviate from each other. A positive excursion of several permil in δ13Corg starts earlier and is much more pronounced than the short-term positive δ13Ccarb excursion; both excursions interrupt the general negative trend. Throughout the entire period investigated, δ13Corg values become lighter with increasing distance from the palaeocoastline. Changing δ13Corg values may be due to the influx of comparatively isotopically heavy land plant material. The stronger influence of land plant material on the δ13Corg during the positive isotope excursion indicates a temporarily enhanced continental runoff that may either reflect increased precipitation, possibly triggered by aerosols originating from Siberian Trap volcanism, or indicate higher erosion rate in the face of reduced land vegetation cover.

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