CIE Spotlight: Fluctuations of redox conditions across the Permian-Triassic boundary – New evidence from the GSSP section in Meishan of South China

Guang S.

Guang S.

Title: Fluctuations of redox conditions across the Permian-Triassic boundary – New evidence from the GSSP section in Meishan of South China

Authors: Li, Guoshan; Wang, Yongbiao; Shi, G. R.; Liao, Wei; Yu, Lixue


Brief summary of the paper: Oceanic anoxia has long been considered as one of the main causes for the end-Permian mass extinction. However, the results obtained by different researchers are rather divergent from different sections, or even on the same section using the same redox proxy.

This study aims to examine the causes for some of these divergent results using high-resolution pyrite framboid sampling at the Meishan GSSP section in South China. Detailed microfacies analysis shows that the uppermost Late Permian strata comprises two significantly different sedimentary facies: one characterized by silicious muddy limestone and recognized as representing autochthonous background sediments; the other distinguished by bioclastic grainstone, interpreted to be allochthonous in origin and have been transported from the nearby platform margin.

These two different sedimentary facies represent two distinctly different redox conditions. Together with the facies analysis, a statistical analysis of pyrite framboids was carried out to evaluate the redox evolution across the Permian–Triassic boundary. Abundant framboids with average diameters of about 6 μm are found in background sediments beneath the extinction boundary, indicating generally anoxic bottom water conditions. But this condition was punctuated by transient intervals of rapid oxygenation interpreted to have been caused by intrusion of intermittent turbidity flows.

Our study also showed that anoxic conditions persisted into the immediate aftermath of the mass extinction, thereafter it was quickly followed by a relatively long period of oxic conditions (with rare framboids).

However, the redox conditions returned to anoxia (with abundant pyrite framboids averaging about 5 μm in diameter), accompanied by a rapid global transgression. The oxygenation manifested near the Permian–Triassic boundary coincides with the negative excursion of carbon isotope.

This would imply that, contrary to previous interpretations, this great δ13C negative excursion was probably not caused by the upwelling of anoxic deep ocean waters.