Diachronous end-Permian terrestrial ecosystem collapse with its origin in wildfires

Jing Lu, Ye Wang, Minfang Yang, Peixin Zhang, David Bond, Longyi Shao, Jason Hilton

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The Permian-Triassic Mass Extinction (PTME) is the greatest biodiversity crisis in Earth history and while the marine crisis is increasingly well constrained, the timing and cause(s) of terrestrial losses remain poorly understood. There have been suggestions that the End-Permian Terrestrial Collapse (EPTC) pre-dated, was synchronous with or post-dated the marine crisis, or even occurred asynchronously in different regions. We address these conflicting interpretations through a detailed geochemical study of a terrestrial sequence in the Liujiang Coalfield on the North China Plate (NCP) in which we apply zircon U-Pb dating of tuffaceous claystone, kerogen identification, and analysis of organic carbon isotopic composition (δ13Corg), total organic carbon (TOC), continental weathering (via the chemical index of alteration; CIA) and Ni concentrations. Our study constrains the Permian-Triassic boundary (PTB) near the base of bed 20 in our sequence at approximately 251.9 ± 1.1 Ma, immediately above a Ni anomaly also known from other terrestrial sequences and the marine PTME. Organic carbon isotope chemostratigraphy together with evidence for algal blooms and the presence of mudstone clasts suggests that the onset of the EPTC in the NCP was synchronous with the crisis in low latitudes (e.g., South China), but was about 310 kyr later than the EPTC in higher southerly latitudes (e.g., Australia). The EPTC predates the marine PTME. Kerogen macerals suggest that a phase of increased wildfire was sustained from the onset of the EPTC in the NCP until the marine PTME interval, implicating wildfire as a major driver of the EPTC (at least in low latitudes) that, in turn, had devastating consequences for the marine realm.
Original languageEnglish
Article number110960
JournalPalaeogeography Palaeoclimatology Palaeoecology
Early online date28 Mar 2022
Publication statusPublished - 15 May 2022


  • Ni concentration
  • North China Plate
  • Organic carbon isotopes
  • Permian-Triassic Mass Extinction
  • Terrestrial ecosystem collapse
  • U-Pb dating


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