Field of Science

The Permian-Triassic Global Extinction Was Possibly Not Global

Hochuli, P. A., Os Vigran, J., Hermann, E., and H. Bucher. 2010. Multiple climatic changes around the Permian-Triassic boundary event revealed by an expanded palynological record from mid-Norway. Geological Society of America Bulletin 122:884-896. doi: 10.1130/B26551.1

Abstract - Here, we present the palynological record from two shallow core holes(6611/09-U-01 and -02) from the Trøndelag Platform offshore mid-Norway consisting of 750 m of Upper Permian and Lower Triassic sediments. The relatively homogeneous assemblages recovered from the Upper Permian deposits are dominated by gymnosperm pollen, mainly pteridosperms. At the base of the Griesbachian, numerous spore species appear in the record, leading to an increased diversity. The change at this boundary is also marked by the massive reduction of one group of pteridosperm pollen (Vittatina). Together with other typical Permianelements (e.g., Lueckisporites virkkiae), this group is rare but consistently present in the lower part of the Griesbachian, and it gradually disappears in its upper part. The distribution of other groups such as taeniate and non-taeniate bisaccate gymnosperm pollen (pterido sperms and conifers) shows no significant change across the boundary, whereas spores and other gymnosperm pollen increase in diversity and abundance. These changes coincide with the formational change between the Schuchert Dal Formation (Upper Permian) and the Wordie Creek Formation (Griesbachian) equivalents. Late Permian and Griesbachian palynomorph assemblages display different patterns. The former show a homogeneous composition of low diversity, whereas the latter reflect diverse and variably composed floras. The data suggest that the arid phase of the Late Permian was followed by a humid phase at the base of the Griesbachian. In the Griesbachian section, a succession of six distinct palynological assemblages (phase II–VII) can be inferred. Comparable changes have been described from East Greenland. The variations in the palynological record are interpreted to reflect changing ecological conditions (e.g., changing humidity). Comparable variations in the distribution of δ13C isotope values reported from various sections from Greenland and China, showing stable values during the Late Permian and highly variable values during the Griesbachian, suggest common causes for the observed fluctuations. Multiphase volcanic activity of the Siberian traps seems to be the most likely candidate to have caused the variations in the δ13C isotope as well as in the palynological record. In contrast to the common claim that marine and terrestrial biota both suffered a mass extinction related to the Permian- Triassic boundary event, the studied material from the Norwegian midlatitudinal sites shows no evidence for destruction of plant ecosystems. The presence of diverse microfloras of Griesbachian age supports the idea that the climate in this area allowed most plants to survive the Permian-Triassic boundary event.

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