The end-Permian mass extinction (EPME) is regarded as the most severe biotic crisis in Earth’s history and is particularly well documented in marine fossils. Its effects on terrestrial plants, however, remain highly controversial. A recent study , based on the analysis of pollen fossils, has found that the EPME did indeed have a greatly negative impact on terrestrial plants. Nevertheless, this impact was less long-lasting than on sea life.
Gymnosperm Plant Credit: Angelika Graczyk
“It seems that the extinction event only caused a short-term disturbance in land-plant communities,” said Prof. LIU Feng
, lead author of the study and a scientist from the Nanjing Institute of Geology and paleontology, Chinese Academy of Sciences
. Liu and his team came to the conclusion using data obtained from rock outcrops of varicolored shales across the Permian-Triassic boundary (PTB), which are located near the Qubu and Tulong sections in the southern Third Pole region. These shales contain marine and terrestrial fossil records, making them perfect biostratigraphic archives for changes in the two different environments.
The study contradicts the belief that the transition of plant community from gymnosperms to lycopsids-dominated occurred due to the extinction event. “Instead, it is highly possible that a warmer and more humid climate caused by the secondary Siberian eruptions in the early Dienerian made it happen,” said Liu.
Editor's note: the study was supported by the Second Tibetan Plateau Scientific Expedition and Research (STEP), a TPE related science project.