A study examines the link between volcanic activity and the end-Triassic extinction. The Central Atlantic Magmatic Province (CAMP) represents a large quantity of volcanic rock that erupted toward the end of the Triassic period. Earlier work suggests that volcanic gases emitted during the CAMP formation may have caused the end-Triassic extinction. Additionally, previous studies indicate that some CAMP basalts were formed by pulses of volcanic activity, but the global extent of these volcanic fluctuations remains unknown. Lawrence Percival and colleagues examined sediments deposited at the same time as CAMP from four continents for fluctuations in mercury, which is emitted as a gas from volcanoes. For five of the six study locations, the authors identified pulses of elevated mercury, wherein the onset of elevated mercury concentrations coincided with the end-Triassic extinction. Almost all of the peaks of elevated mercury concentrations occurred in strata formed between the end-Triassic extinction and the Triassic–Jurassic boundary, separated by approximately 200,000 years. Elevated mercury concentrations also coincided with previously established increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations, suggesting CO2 release from volcanic degassing. According to the authors, pulses of CAMP volcanism, and the consequential disturbance to the ocean-atmospheric system via CO2-driven climate change, likely affected the rate and magnitude of the end-Triassic mass extinction and ecological recovery.
Article #17-05378: “Mercury evidence for pulsed volcanism during the end-Triassic mass extinction,” by Lawrence M.E. Percival et al.