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End-Permian burnout: the role of Permian–Triassic wildfires in extinction, carbon cycling, and environmental change in eastern Gondwana
Swedish Museum of Natural History, Department of Paleobiology. School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, Environmental Research Institute, University College Cork, Distillery Fields, Cork T23 N73K, Ireland.
Swedish Museum of Natural History, Department of Paleobiology.
2022 (English)In: Palaios, ISSN 0883-1351, E-ISSN 1938-5323, Vol. 37, no 6, p. 292-317Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Wildfire has been implicated as a potential driver of deforestation and continental biodiversity loss during the end-Permian extinction event (EPE; ~ 252 Ma). However, it cannot be established whether wildfire activity was anomalous during the EPE without valid pre- and post-EPE baselines. Here, we assess the changes in wildfire activity in the high-latitude lowlands of eastern Gondwana by presenting new long-term, quantitative late Permian (Lopingian) to Early Triassic records of dispersed fossil charcoal and inertinite from sediments of the Sydney Basin, eastern Australia. We also document little-transported fossil charcoal occurrences in middle to late Permian (Guadalupian to Lopingian) permineralized peats of the Lambert Graben, East Antarctica, and Sydney and Bowen basins, eastern Australia, indicating that even vegetation of consistently moist high-latitude settings was prone to regular fire events. Our records show that wildfires were consistently prevalent through the Lopingian, but the EPE demonstrates a clear spike in activity. The relatively low charcoal and inertinite baseline for the Early Triassic is likely due in part to the lower vegetation density, which would have limited fire spread. We review the evidence for middle Permian to Lower Triassic charcoal in the geosphere, and the impacts of wildfires on sedimentation processes and the evolution of landscapes. Moreover, we assess the evidence of continental extinction drivers during the EPE within eastern Australia, and critically evaluate the role of wildfires as a cause and consequence of ecosystem collapse. The initial intensification of the fire regime during the EPE likely played a role in the initial loss of wetland carbon sinks, and contributed to increased greenhouse gas emissions and land and freshwater ecosystem changes. However, we conclude that elevated wildfire frequency was a short-lived phenomenon; recurrent wildfire events were unlikely to be the direct cause of the subsequent long-term absence of peat-forming wetland vegetation, and the associated ‘coal gap’ of the Early Triassic.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Washington D.C.: Society for Sedimentary Geology , 2022. Vol. 37, no 6, p. 292-317
Keywords [en]
Permian, Triassic, Australia, extinction, wildfire, charcoal, carbon cycle, Glossopteris
National Category
Other Earth and Related Environmental Sciences
Research subject
The changing Earth
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:nrm:diva-4889DOI: 10.2110/palo.2021.051OAI: oai:DiVA.org:nrm-4889DiVA, id: diva2:1714945
Funder
Swedish Research Council, 2018-04527
Note

The authors acknowledge the support of research grant EAR-1636625 from the US National Science Foundation, and the Swedish Research Council (VR) grant 2018-04527 to SM. The Australian Antarctic Division provided financial and logistical support for fieldwork in the Prince Charles Mountains during the Austral summer of 1994–1995 via Antarctic Science Advisory Council Project 509.

Available from: 2022-11-30 Created: 2022-11-30Bibliographically approved

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Publisher's full texthttps://pubs.geoscienceworld.org/sepm/palaios/article-abstract/37/6/292/614825/END-PERMIAN-BURNOUT-THE-ROLE-OF-PERMIAN-TRIASSIC?redirectedFrom=fulltext

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