Volcanically driven lacustrine ecosystem changes during the Carnian Pluvial Episode (Late Triassic)

Jing Lu, Peixin Zhang, Jacopo Dal Corso, Minfang Yang, Paul Wignall, Sarah Greene, Longyi Shao, Dan Lyu, Jason Hilton

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The Late Triassic Carnian Pluvial Episode (CPE) saw a dramatic increase in global humidity and temperature that has been linked to the large-scale volcanism of the Wrangellia large igneous province. The climatic changes coincide with a major biological turnover on land that included the ascent of the dinosaurs and the origin of modern conifers. However, linking the disparate cause and effects of the CPE has yet to be achieved because of the lack of a detailed terrestrial record of these events. Here, we present a multidisciplinary record of volcanism and environmental change from an expanded Carnian lake succession of the Jiyuan Basin, North China. New U–Pb zircon dating, high-resolution chemostratigraphy, and palynological and sedimentological data reveal that terrestrial conditions in the region were in remarkable lockstep with the large-scale volcanism. Using the sedimentary mercury record as a proxy for eruptions reveals four discrete episodes during the CPE interval (ca. 234.0 to 232.4 Ma). Each eruptive phase correlated with large, negative C isotope excursions and major climatic changes to more humid conditions (marked by increased importance of hygrophytic plants), lake expansion, and eutrophication. Our results show that large igneous province eruptions can occur in multiple, discrete pulses, rather than showing a simple acme-and-decline history, and demonstrate their powerful ability to alter the global C cycle, cause climate change, and drive macroevolution, at least in the Triassic.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2109895118
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number40
Early online date27 Sept 2021
Publication statusPublished - 5 Oct 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Financial support was provided from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant Nos. 41772161 and 41472131), Natural Environment Research Council?s Biosphere Evolution, Transition, and Resilience program (NE/P0137224/1), National Science and Technology Major Project (Award No. 2017ZX05009-002), and New Century Excellent Talents Fund of Chinese Ministry of Education (Award No. 2013102050020). We thank James Bendle (University of Birmingham) for helpful discussions and the reviewers for their constructive comments on the manuscript.


  • large igneous province
  • volcanism
  • Triassic
  • Carnian Pluvial Episode
  • climate change


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