A team of scientists found clues on the delay in recovery of the mass extinction that killed 96 percent and 70 percent of the world’s marine species and terrestrial life, respectively. Based on their study in the Arctic, they discovered that the delay was most likely caused by the nutrient gap after the mass extinction event, also known as the Permian-Triassic extinction event or The Great Dying Event.
The Great Dying Event was possibly triggered by an explosive event of volcanic eruptions in the area now named Siberia, explains the study’s co-author Jochen Knies, a researcher at the Center for Arctic Gas Hydrate, Climate and Environment (CAGE). Apparently, the eruptions lasted for a million years, spewing out massive quantities of methane, carbon dioxide and other volatiles that led Earth to become extremely hot.
This temperature increase also resulted to unbearably high ocean temperature that prevented nutrients from the bottom of the ocean to rise, depleting marine algae productivity. Since algae are at the bottom of the food chain, their absence significantly affected any life that relied on them.
This was confirmed when they found several geological records that nutrients like nitrogen were very poor in the Canadian High Arctic, which used to be the northwestern part of Pangaea. Oceans only recovered between six and seven million years after the mass extinction event.
The research team says that the recovery took between five and nine million years. During this time, waters rich in nutrients came back.
Eventually, the Permian-Triassic mass extinction led the way for the emergence of dinosaurs. Unfortunately, extinction struck the dinosaurs just like what happened previously. Now, scientists believe that another mass extinction caused by humans could also happen some time in the future.
The findings can also give us clues about the consequences of global warming to the marine ecosystems we presently have.