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A nutrient control on marine anoxia during the end-Permian mass extinction

Schobben, Martin; Foster, William J.; Sleveland, Arve R.; Zuchuat, Valentin; Svensen, Henrik; Planke, Sverre; Bond, David P.G.; Marcelis, Fons; Newton, Robert J.; Wignall, Paul B.; Poulton, Simon W.


Martin Schobben

William J. Foster

Arve R. Sleveland

Valentin Zuchuat

Henrik Svensen

Sverre Planke

Fons Marcelis

Robert J. Newton

Paul B. Wignall

Simon W. Poulton


© 2020, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Limited. Oxygen deprivation and hydrogen sulfide toxicity are considered potent kill mechanisms during the mass extinction just before the Permian–Triassic boundary (~251.9 million years ago). However, the mechanism that drove vast stretches of the ocean to an anoxic state is unclear. Here, we present palaeoredox and phosphorus speciation data for a marine bathymetric transect from Svalbard. This shows that, before the extinction, enhanced weathering driven by Siberian Traps volcanism increased the influx of phosphorus, thus enhancing marine primary productivity and oxygen depletion in proximal shelf settings. However, this non-sulfidic state efficiently sequestered phosphorus in the sediment in association with iron minerals, thus restricting the intensity and spatial extent of oxygen-depleted waters. The collapse of vegetation on land immediately before the marine extinction changed the relative weathering influx of iron and sulfate. The resulting transition to euxinic (sulfidic) conditions led to enhanced remobilization of bioavailable phosphorus, initiating a feedback that caused the spread of anoxic waters across large portions of the shelf. This reconciles a lag of >0.3 million years between the onset of enhanced weathering and the development of widespread, but geographically variable, ocean anoxia, with major implications for extinction selectivity.


Schobben, M., Foster, W. J., Sleveland, A. R., Zuchuat, V., Svensen, H., Planke, S., …Poulton, S. W. (2020). A nutrient control on marine anoxia during the end-Permian mass extinction. Nature Geoscience,

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jul 9, 2020
Online Publication Date Aug 17, 2020
Publication Date Jan 1, 2020
Deposit Date Jul 14, 2020
Publicly Available Date Oct 27, 2022
Journal Nature Geoscience
Print ISSN 1752-0894
Electronic ISSN 1752-0908
Publisher Nature Publishing Group
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Keywords Element cycles; Palaeoceanography; Palaeoclimate; Palaeontology
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