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Marine ecosystem resilience during extreme deoxygenation: the Early Jurassic oceanic anoxic event

Caswell, Bryony A.; Frid, Christopher L.J.


Christopher L.J. Frid


Global warming during the Early Jurassic, and associated widespread ocean deoxygenation, was comparable in scale with the changes projected for the next century. This study quantifies the impact of severe global environmental change on the biological traits of marine communities that define the ecological roles and functions they deliver. We document centennial–millennial variability in the biological trait composition of Early Jurassic (Toarcian) seafloor communities and examine how this changed during the event using biological traits analysis. Environmental changes preceding the global oceanic anoxic event (OAE) produced an ecological shift leading to stressed benthic palaeocommunities with reduced resilience to the subsequent OAE. Changes in traits and ecological succession coincided with major environmental changes; and were of similar nature and magnitude to those in severely deoxygenated benthic communities today despite the very different timescales. Changes in community composition were linked to local redox conditions whereas changes in populations of opportunists were driven by primary productivity. Throughout most of the OAE substitutions by tolerant taxa conserved the trait composition and hence functioning, but periods of severe deoxygenation caused benthic defaunation that would have resulted in functional collapse. Following the OAE recovery was slow probably because the global nature of the event restricted opportunities for recruitment from outside the basin. Our findings suggest that future systems undergoing deoxygenation may initially show functional resilience, but severe global deoxygenation will impact traits and ecosystem functioning and, by limiting the species pool, will slow recovery rates.


Caswell, B. A., & Frid, C. L. (2017). Marine ecosystem resilience during extreme deoxygenation: the Early Jurassic oceanic anoxic event. Oecologia, 183(1), 275-290.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Sep 29, 2016
Online Publication Date Oct 18, 2016
Publication Date Jan 1, 2017
Deposit Date Aug 6, 2018
Journal Oecologia
Print ISSN 0029-8549
Electronic ISSN 1432-1939
Publisher Springer Verlag
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 183
Issue 1
Pages 275-290
Keywords Hypoxia; Palaeoecology; Dead zone; Toarcian; Biological traits; Long-term change
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