Project Title: The lasting legacy of extreme global warming: Fossil floras and climates of the Smithian–Spathian extinction event
Researcher: Marcos Amores
Marcos' goal for his project is to know how plants and environments changed in response to a period of cooling following intense global warming in Earth's deep past. For this, he will have to measure a variety of different data in a specific section of the world that ranges from fossils to chemical signatures, and then compare it to other parts to see if the changes are local or global. The end goal is the development of a solid database that can assist other researchers and policy makers to better gauge what could come after our current global warming episode.
The end-Permian extinction event is considered the largest mass extinction of the Phanerozoic. The recovery from it took ~5.4 Ma as evidenced by large variations in stable carbon isotope values, which signify a time where trophic chains were in an unbalanced state. Towards the end of this recovery phase lies the Smithian–Spathian Event (SSE), which is characterised by a period of exacerbated global cooling that followed global warming, as well as a negative stable carbon isotope excursion with worldwide expression. Notable shifts in ammonoid and conodont faunas and lycophyte and gymnosperm floras are known for this interval across the world, and this project will focus on the terrestrial floras present in the Sydney Basin (Australia) during that time (Early Triassic, ~249.2 Ma). This basin was situated near the south polar circle during its formation and is special for having most of its units deposited in terrestrial environments and for ranging through the late Permian and Early Triassic. The goals for this project are to correlate fossil (both macro- and micro-), isotope, and sediment records, measure stable carbon isotope signature fluctuations, and reconstruct the ecological and environmental changes that define the SSE.