Large spikes in mercury (Hg) concentration are observed globally at the latest Permian extinction (LPE) horizon that are thought to be related to enhanced volcanic emissions of the Siberian Traps large igneous province (LIP). While forming an effective chemostratigraphic marker, it remains unclear whether such enhanced volcanic Hg emissions could have generated toxic conditions that contributed to extinction processes. To address this, we examined the nature of enhanced Hg emissions from the Siberian Traps LIP and the potential impact it may have had on global ecosystems during the LPE. Model results for a LIP eruption predict that pulses of Hg emissions to the atmosphere would have been orders of magnitude greater than normal background conditions. When deposited into world environments, this would have generated a series of toxic shocks, each lasting >1000 yr. Such repeated Hg loading events would have had severe impact across marine trophic levels, as well as been toxic to terrestrial plant and animal life. Such high Hg loading rates may help explain the co-occurrence of marine and terrestrial extinctions.
Department of Earth Sciences

Grasby, S.E. (Stephen E.), Liu, X. (Xiaojun), Yin, R. (Runsheng), Ernst, R.E, & Chen, Z. (Zhuoheng). (2020). Toxic mercury pulses into late Permian terrestrial and marine environments. Geology, 48(8), 830–833. doi:10.1130/G47295.1