Project 630 - Permian-Triassic climatic and environmental extremes and biotic response

Many marine ecosystems are under threat at the present day. The geological record provides numerous analogues of environmental upheavals and major biocrises, the most disruptive of which occurred during the Permian-Triassic (P-Tr) transition at ~252 million years ago. Many of the factors that contributed to the P-Tr biotic crisis, e.g., increased atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations, rapid global warming, oceanic anoxia, and hypercapnia (CO2 poisoning) are also observed in the present day or are anticipated to develop in the near future. The Permian-Triassic transition may thus record a natural experiment in global-scale ecosystem collapse that, if properly deciphered, could provide important insights into possible responses of modern marine ecosystems to present day climate and environmental change. This project will address themes related to current global concerns and issues including the response of the biosphere to global warming, sustenance of global biodiversity, and maintaining the habitability of planet Earth.

The project aims to investigate the climatic and environmental extremes and ecosystem’s response during the P-Tr mass extinction and its aftermath through analyses of the rock and fossil records of South China, Tibet, Japan, India, elsewhere in Asia, eastern Europe, Russia, Canada, Greenland, Spitsbergen, western US, western Australia, and New Zealand. Through detailed studies of latest Permian to Early Triassic biostratigraphy, palaeontology, palaeoecology, sedimentology, geochemistry, and biogeochemistry in the above regions, this project will attempt to document global ecosystem’s collapse and rebuilding in seas and on land, formulate the mechanism biotic response to climatic and environmental extremes at fossil group and ecosystem levels; to reconstruct the global latest Permian to Early Triassic oceanic and climatic conditions and probe mutual effect mechanism between extreme environment and high temperature; and to correlate all of this data in a global stratigraphic framework. Ultimately, this project will:

(1) reveal climatic and environmental extremes at a global scale and their impacts on ecosystems in seas and on land,

(2) elucidate the factors controlling biotic recovery in various habitats and climate zones,

(3) determine the similarities and differences in the responses of different marine groups to biotic crisis, and

(4) assess the effects of climate or other geological events on the restoration of the defaunated marine ecosystems.

These goals will be achieved primarily by collaborative fieldwork in key latest Permian to Early Triassic successions in >10 different countries over five years and related laboratory work in over 20 different countries. The results of our project, which are to be published in four and special volumes or edited books, in international peer-reviewed journals, in annual symposium proceedings and on the World Wide Web, will advance scientific understanding of the interactions between the biosphere and geosphere and lead to a better understanding of ancient defaunation events. The firm support and active involvement in this project of most top scientists in this field from around the world will lead to unique training opportunities for postgraduate students from a range of countries (Argentina, Austria, Australia, Canada, China, India, Japan, France, Germany, Iran, Russia, Switzerland, Thailand, UK, USA) as well as professionals from developing and developed regions alike. As a result, the project will provide a friendly platform for participants to communicate their own research results and also bring together global experts, and research facilities to solve a truly global-scale problem. The competitive track records of the project co-leaders underscore this project’s high chance of academic success as well as its potential to achieve significant societal benefits in the form of knowledge sharing and enhanced scientific cooperation between nations.

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