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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


  • Jing Lu
  • Peixin Zhang
  • Jacopo Dal Corso
  • Minfang Yang
  • Paul Wignall
  • Longyi Shao
  • Dan Lyu

Colleges, School and Institutes

External organisations

  • China University of Geosciences
  • China University of Mining and Technology
  • PetroChina
  • University of Leeds
  • China National Petroleum Corporation


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 Sep 2021
Publication statusPublished - 5 Oct 2021


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

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