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Volcanism and Mass Extinction

Font, Eric; Bond, David P.G.


Eric Font

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David Bond
Palaeoenvironmental Scientist and Schools Liason Officer


David Alderton

Scott A. Elias


During the Phanerozoic, life on Earth experienced several mass extinctions, each associated with major climatic and environmental changes. The cause(s) of the biotic crises have been debated for decades but recent improvements in radioisotopic dating have revealed a close temporal link between large igneous province (LIP) activity and extinction events recorded in marine and terrestrial sedimentary rocks. This inferred causal relationship has been strengthened by the emergence of the mercury (Hg) proxy as evidence for massive volcanism in sedimentary records, as well as paleotemperatures calculated from the oxygen isotopic composition of various fossil shells and terrestrial fossil plants and paleosol carbonate. Current challenges focus on understanding the climatic and environmental changes induced by LIPs and resolving the kill mechanisms responsible for mass extinctions. This article examines the link between LIPs and major Phanerozoic mass extinction events. We focus on the two best known crises: the end-Cretaceous mass extinction, where bolide impact and eruptions in the Deccan Traps famously wiped out the (nonavian) dinosaurs; and the end-Permian mass extinction—the greatest crisis in Earth's history. We conclude with a brief overview of the other major crises of the Phanerozoic.


Font, E., & Bond, D. P. (2021). Volcanism and Mass Extinction. In D. Alderton, & S. A. Elias (Eds.), Encyclopedia of Geology (596-606). (2nd ed.). London: Academic Press.

Online Publication Date Dec 2, 2020
Publication Date 2021
Deposit Date Apr 21, 2023
Publisher Academic Press
Pages 596-606
Edition 2nd ed.
Book Title Encyclopedia of Geology
ISBN 9780081029091
Keywords Acid rain; Anoxia; Climate change; Continental flood basalts; Deccan traps; Global warming; Large igneous provinces; Mercury; Ocean acidification; Ozone loss; Phanerozoic; Radioisotopic dating; Siberian traps
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