Climate-driven Hg-remobilisation triggering long-term disturbance in vegetation following the end-Triassic mass-extinction

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  • Remco Bos
  • Wang Zheng
  • Lindström, Malin Sofie
  • Hamed Sanei
  • Irene Waajen
  • Isabel Fendley
  • Tamsin Mather
  • Appy Sluijs
  • Bas van de Schootbrugge
The Central Atlantic Magmatic Province (CAMP) eruptions are generally regarded as the main driver of major environmental change and mass-extinction across the Triassic-Jurassic (T-J) boundary (~201.3 Ma). CAMP emissions have been invoked as the main trigger for the formation of abnormal pollen and spores during the end-Triassic crisis that may have led to forest dieback and proliferation of pioneer species. Proposed scenarios include extensive climate change leading to wildfire activity, acid rain, and increased UV-B radiation due to ozone depletion. More recently, volcanogenic mercury (Hg) has been implicated in the occurrence of mutations in fern spores. However, Hg-dynamics in deep-time remain poorly understood and require further examination. Here, we explore a new long-term (Rhaetian to Sinemurian) bulk Hg-concentration record combined with Hg-isotope data to understand the link between floral turnovers and the Hg-cycle.

Shallow marine sediments sampled from the Schandelah-1 core in northern Germany contain a record of cyclical shifts in malformed fern spores coinciding with fluctuations in carbon isotopes, increased levels of weathering, and Hg-enrichments. Similarly, increased mutagenic spore abundances with accompanying Hg-isotope records confirm the volcanogenic origin of Hg at the T-J boundary, showing a sharp positive excursion in mass-independent fractionation (MIF) of odd-numbered Hg-isotopes. Hettangian cyclicity is clearly reflected in the Hg-isotopic signals, showing positive excursions in mass-dependent/independent fractionation records (d202Hg and D199Hg) during periods of sedimentary Hg-enrichment. In addition, the Hettangian Hg-isotopic signature clearly deviates from Rhaetian signatures, which hints at climate-controlled mechanisms being responsible. Atmospheric Hg-loading via volcanism can explain the synchronous enrichments of Hg concentrations at the T-J boundary interval in multiple sites across the globe. In contrast, the origin of this periodic Hg-loading is more difficult to pinpoint, but it becomes clear that Hg is showing shifts in speciation and closely tied to terrestrial vegetation development. Orbitally induced changes to the regional hydrological regime, resulting in increased wildfire activity, monsoonal intensity, and soil erosion, potentially redistributed Hg stored in soil and/or bedrock reservoirs causing a shift to more mobile Hg-species. Overall, this shows a more dominant role of climate-induced Hg-remobilisation, rather than direct volcanic emissions, to disturbance in terrestrial vegetation.
Original languageEnglish
Publication date2023
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 2023
EventEGU General Assembly 2023: Vienna, Austria & Online - Vienna, Austria
Duration: 24 Apr 202328 Apr 2023


ConferenceEGU General Assembly 2023

    Research areas

  • Faculty of Science - Palaeoclimate, Mercury Isotopes, Triassic-Jurassic boundary, large igneous provinces, volcanism, climate change, palynology

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