Environmental controls on marine ecosystem recovery following mass extinctions, with an example from the Early Triassic
The recovery of marine ecosystems following a mass extinction event involves an extended interval of increasing biotic diversity and ecosystem complexity. The pace of recovery may be controlled by intrinsic ecosystem or extrinsic environmental factors. Here, we present an analysis of changes in marine conditions following the end-Permian mass extinction with the objective of evaluating the role of environmental factors in the protracted (~. 5-Myr-long) recovery of marine ecosystems during the Early Triassic. Specifically, our study examines changes in weathering, productivity, and redox proxies in three sections in South China (Chaohu, Daxiakou, and Zuodeng) and one in northern India (Mud). Our results reveal: 1) recurrent environmental perturbations during the Early Triassic; 2) a general pattern of high terrestrial weathering rates and more intensely reducing marine redox conditions during the early Griesbachian, late Griesbachian, mid-Smithian, and (more weakly) the mid-Spathian; 3) increases in marine productivity during the aforementioned intervals except for the early Griesbachian; and 4) stronger and more temporally discrete intervals of environmental change in deepwater sections (Chaohu and Daxiakou) relative to shallow and intermediate sections (Zuodeng and Mud). Our analysis reveals a close relationship between episodes of marine environmental deterioration and a slowing or reversal of ecosystem recovery based on metrics of biodiversity, within-community (alpha) diversity, infaunal burrowing, and ecosystem tiering. We infer that the pattern and pace of marine ecosystem recovery was strongly modulated by recurrent environmental perturbations during the Early Triassic. These perturbations were associated with elevated weathering and productivity fluxes, implying that nutrient and energy flows were key influences on recovery. More regular secular variation in deepwater relative to shallow-water environmental conditions implies that perturbations originated at depth (i.e., within the oceanic thermocline) and influenced the ocean-surface layer irregularly. Finally, we compared patterns of environmental disturbance and ecosystem recovery following the other four "Big Five" Phanerozoic mass extinctions to evaluate whether commonalities exist. In general, the pace of ecosystem recovery depends on the degree of stability of the post-crisis marine environment.
- South China
- ISSN: 0012-8252