CO2 and the end-Triassic mass extinction.Nature. 2002 Jan 24; 415(6870):386-7; author reply 388.Nat
The end of the Triassic period was marked by one of the largest and most enigmatic mass-extinction events in Earth's history and, with few reliable marine geochemical records, terrestrial sediments offer an important means of deciphering environmental changes at this time. Tanner et al. describe an isotopic study of Mesozoic fossil soils which suggests that the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide (pCO2) across the Triassic-Jurassic boundary was relatively constant (within 250 p.p.m.v.), but this is inconsistent with high-resolution evidence from the stomatal characters of fossil leaves. Here I show that the temporal resolution of the fossil-soil samples may have been inadequate for detecting a transient rise in pCO2. I also show that the fossil-soil data are consistent with a large increase in pCO2 across the Triassic-Jurassic boundary when variations in the stable carbon isotope (denoted as delta13C) in terrestrial plant leaves are taken into account. These factors suggest that the linkage between pCO2, global warming and the end-Triassic mass extinction remains intact.