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Middle Jurassic terrestrial environmental and floral changes linked to volcanism: Evidence from the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, China

Zhang, Peixin; Yang, Minfang; Lu, Jing; Jiang, Zhongfeng; Zhou, Kai; Liu, Haoqing; He, Zhen; Wang, Ye; Bian, Xiao; Shao, Longyi; Hilton, Jason; Bond, David P.G.


Peixin Zhang

Minfang Yang

Jing Lu

Zhongfeng Jiang

Kai Zhou

Haoqing Liu

Zhen He

Ye Wang

Xiao Bian

Longyi Shao

Jason Hilton

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David Bond
Palaeoenvironmental Scientist and Schools Liason Officer


The breakup of Pangaea and the rapid opening of the Ligurian and Central Atlantic oceans during the Middle Jurassic resulted in widespread volcanism accompanied by significant shifts in global environments, climates, and floras. Although major volcanism is a plausible driver of such global changes, linking these phenomena in the Middle Jurassic is hindered by a lack of detailed sedimentary records from which to evaluate cause and effect. Here, we link Middle Jurassic environmental, climatic, and floral changes with volcanism using records from the Dameigou section of the Qaidam Basin on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. High-resolution chemostratigraphic (δ13Corg patterns) and biostratigraphic (palynological fossils) data reveal three negative organic carbon isotope excursions (NCIE) at the Aalenian-Bajocian boundary, the Bajocian-Bathonian boundary, and in the middle of the Callovian, respectively. The first two NCIEs (NCIE-I and NCIE-II) were accompanied by relatively warm and humid climatic conditions and coal accumulation. In contrast, the third NCIE (NCIE-III) was accompanied by warm but dry climatic conditions, a decrease in coal accumulation, a decline in plant diversity, the significant decline in fern spore diversity and abundance, and a rapid increase in the abundance of Classopollis pollen (based on petrological, palynological, PCA, Hydrophyte/Xerophyte ratio, and nMDS data). Four sedimentary mercury anomalies (Hg/Al2O3 spikes) have temporal coincidence with the three NCIEs and climate warming events, suggesting a volcanic origin for these. We suggest that volcanism was a key driver of Middle Jurassic change, with major pulses releasing large amounts of CO2 and Hg into the atmosphere, resulting in Hg loading, NCIEs, climatic warming, and floral changes in terrestrial strata. Our multi-proxy study provides new insights into the links between volcanism and terrestrial environmental, climatic, and floral changes during the Middle Jurassic.


Zhang, P., Yang, M., Lu, J., Jiang, Z., Zhou, K., Liu, H., …Bond, D. P. (2023). Middle Jurassic terrestrial environmental and floral changes linked to volcanism: Evidence from the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, China. Global and planetary change, 223, Article 104094.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Mar 17, 2023
Online Publication Date Mar 22, 2023
Publication Date 2023-04
Deposit Date Mar 20, 2023
Publicly Available Date Mar 30, 2023
Journal Global and Planetary Change
Print ISSN 0921-8181
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 223
Article Number 104094
Keywords Middle Jurassic; Terrestrial Qaidam Basin; Palynological fossils; Organic carbon isotope composition; Volcanism
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