Global perturbation of the marine calcium cycle during the Permian-Triassic transition

Silva-Tamayo, Juan Carlos
Lau, Kimberly
Jost, Adam B.
Payne, Jonathan L.
Wignall, Paul B.
Newton, Robert J.
Eisenhauer, Anton
Depaolo, Donald J.
Brown, Shaun
Maher, Kate
Lehrmann, Daniel J.
Altıner, Demir
Yu, Meiyi
Richoz, Sylvain
Paytan, Adina
A negative shift in the calcium isotopic composition of marine carbonate rocks spanning the end-Permian extinction horizon in South China has been used to argue for an ocean acidification event coincident with mass extinction. This interpretation has proven controversial, both because the excursion has not been demonstrated across multiple, widely separated localities, and because modeling results of coupled carbon and calcium isotope records illustrate that calcium cycle imbalances alone cannot account for the full magnitude of the isotope excursion. Here, we further test potential controls on the Permian-Triassic calcium isotope record by measuring calcium isotope ratios from shallow-marine carbonate successions spanning the Permian-Triassic boundary in Turkey, Italy, and Oman. All measured sections display negative shifts in delta Ca-44/40 of up to 0.6 parts per thousand. Consistency in the direction, magnitude, and timing of the calcium isotope excursion across these widely separated localities implies a primary and global delta Ca-44/40 signature. Based on the results of a coupled box model of the geological carbon and calcium cycles, we interpret the excursion to reflect a series of consequences arising from volcanic CO2 release, including a temporary decrease in seawater delta Ca-44/40 due to short-lived ocean acidification and a more protracted increase in calcium isotope fractionation associated with a shift toward more primary aragonite in the sediment and, potentially, subsequently elevated carbonate saturation states caused by the persistence of elevated CO2 delivery from volcanism. Locally, changing balances between aragonite and calcite production are sufficient to account for the calcium isotope excursions, but this effect alone does not explain the globally observed negative excursion in the delta C-13 values of carbonate sediments and organic matter as well. Only a carbon release event and related geochemical consequences are consistent both with calcium and carbon isotope data. The carbon release scenario can also account for oxygen isotope evidence for dramatic and protracted global warming as well as paleontological evidence for the preferential extinction of marine animals most susceptible to acidification, warming, and anoxia.


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The proto-Paratethys Sea covered a vast area extending from the Mediterranean Tethys to the Tarim Basin in western China during Cretaceous and early Paleogene. Climate modelling and proxy studies suggest that Asian aridification has been governed by westerly moisture modulated by fluctuations of the proto-Paratethys Sea. Transgressive and regressive episodes of the proto-Paratethys Sea have been previously recognized but their timing, extent and depositional environments remain poorly constrained. This hamp...
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On shallow-marine carbonate buildups in south China, Turkey, and Japan, uppermost Permian skeletal limestones are truncated by an erosional surface that exhibits as much as 10 cm of topography, including overhanging relief. Sedimentary facies, microfabrics, carbon isotopes, and cements together suggest that erosion occurred in a submarine setting. Moreover, biostratigraphic data from south China demonstrate that the surface postdates the uppermost Permian sequence boundary at the global stratotype section a...
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Citation Formats
J. C. Silva-Tamayo et al., “Global perturbation of the marine calcium cycle during the Permian-Triassic transition,” GEOLOGICAL SOCIETY OF AMERICA BULLETIN, pp. 1323–1338, 2018, Accessed: 00, 2020. [Online]. Available: