Land plant responses during extinction events linked to large volcanic eruptions – is there a common pattern?

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Large-scale volcanic activity during the formation of large igneous provinces (LIPs) were contemporaneous with almost every mass extinction event in Earth’s history, and LIP activity is believed to have caused or contributed to at least three, if not all, Big Five mass extinctions. However, compared to the marine fossil record, the effects of the volcanism on the terrestrial plant record is still poorly understood. Extinctions in the animal record during major biotic crises in Earth history are not mirrored by comparable major changes in land plants. Despite being sedentary organisms land plants have evolved adaptations to cope with adverse changes in the environment which may provide autecological advantages compared to animals. Despite their remarkable resilience, land plant communities were still affected in multiple ways during LIP-induced extinction events. During the end-Triassic mass extinction (201.56–201.36 million years ago) emissions of greenhouse gases, sulfur dioxide and aerosols, halocarbons, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, Hg and heavy metals from magmatic activity, as well as sea-level changes, during the emplacement of the Central Atlantic Magmatic Province (CAMP) are considered to have severely stressed land plants. This is exemplified by major changes in ecosystem structure in palynological records, a rise in microscopic charcoal abundance indicating increased wildfire activity, enhanced reworking of palynomorphs indicating increased soil erosion, acid rain damages on macroplant leaves, and increased abundances of abnormal spores and pollen indicating mutagenesis from Hg-toxicity and/or ozone layer depletion. Several of these land plant responses have also been observed during other extinction events contemporaneous to LIP activity. Here, we compare and discuss some of the changes in common between different biotic crises to evaluate whether there is a common pattern or not.
Original languageEnglish
Publication date2023
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 2023
EventEGU General Assembly 2023: Vienna, Austria & Online - Vienna, Austria
Duration: 24 Apr 202328 Apr 2023


ConferenceEGU General Assembly 2023

    Research areas

  • Faculty of Science - Mass extinctions, large igneous provinces, palynology, volcanism, land plants, end-Triassic crisis

ID: 345325326