36,000 gigatons of carbon heralded history’s biggest mass extinction

36,000 gigatons of carbon heralded history’s biggest mass extinction

Enlarge / Some of the massive volcanic deposits that are part of the Siberian Traps.

The end-Permian mass extinction was a big deal. It was the largest mass extinction event ever and occurred 252 million years ago. A whopping 90 percent of all marine species and around 70 percent of their terrestrial kin were killed off.

Over the years, there have been numerous efforts to look into this massive, world-changing event.

Look to the past

“When you combine [the data and the modeling] together, they become very powerful, and they can reveal some new insights that we can’t really tell by looking at these aspects individually,” Cui told Ars.

Beyond the global warming, the increase in CO2 and changes in carbon cycle could have lowered the pH value of the world’s oceans. This acidification could be partly responsible for the die-off of marine lifeforms.

According to Kürschner, this work could give us a glimpse into what might happen in the Anthropocene’s future if things get bad enough.  “I think it’s like a wakeup call,” he said. “Let’s say we should take care.”

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