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Ammonium ocean following the end-Permian mass extinction

Sun, Y. D.; Zulla, M. J.; Joachimski, M. M.; Bond, D. P.G.; Wignall, P. B.; Zhang, Z. T.; Zhang, M. H.


Y. D. Sun

M. J. Zulla

M. M. Joachimski

P. B. Wignall

Z. T. Zhang

M. H. Zhang


The aftermath of end-Permian mass extinction was marked by a ~5 million year interval of poorly-understood, extreme environments that likely hindered biotic recovery. Contemporary nitrogen isotope variations are considered, using a new conceptual model, to support a scenario that shows intensive nitrate-removal processes gradually depleted the global oceanic nitrate inventory during long-lasting oceanic anoxia. Enhanced nitrogen fixation shifted the oceanic nitrogenous nutrient (nutrient-N) inventory to an ammonium dominated state. Ammonium is toxic to animals and higher plants but fertilizes algae and bacteria. This change in ocean chemistry could account for the intense and unexplained losses of nektonic taxa and the proliferation of microbial blooms in the Early Triassic. The transition from a nitrate ocean to an ammonium ocean was accompanied by a decrease in respiration efficiency of organisms and a shrinking oceanic nutrient-N inventory, ultimately leading to generally low productivity in the Early Triassic oceans. These unappreciated nutrient changes during episodes of prolonged ocean anoxia may be the key life-limiting factor at such times.


Sun, Y. D., Zulla, M. J., Joachimski, M. M., Bond, D. P., Wignall, P. B., Zhang, Z. T., & Zhang, M. H. (2019). Ammonium ocean following the end-Permian mass extinction. Earth and planetary science letters, 518, 211-222.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Apr 23, 2019
Online Publication Date May 17, 2019
Publication Date Jul 15, 2019
Deposit Date Apr 24, 2019
Publicly Available Date May 18, 2020
Journal Earth and Planetary Science Letters
Print ISSN 0012-821X
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 518
Pages 211-222
Keywords Ocean anoxic event; Nitrogen cycle; Early Triassic; Ammonium ocean
Public URL
Additional Information This is the accepted manuscript of an article published in Earth and planetary science letters. The version of record is available at the DOI link in this record


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