Charcoal evidence that rising atmospheric oxygen terminated Early Jurassic ocean anoxia
Nature Publishing Group
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The Toarcian Oceanic Anoxic Event (T-OAE) was characterized by a major disturbance to the global carbon(C)-cycle, and depleted oxygen in Earth’s oceans resulting in marine mass extinction. Numerical models predict that increased organic carbon burial should drive a rise in atmospheric oxygen (pO2) leading to termination of an OAE after ∼1 Myr. Wildfire is highly responsive to changes in pO2 implying that fire-activity should vary across OAEs. Here we test this hypothesis by tracing variations in the abundance of fossil charcoal across the T-OAE. We report a sustained ∼800 kyr enhancement of fire-activity beginning ∼1 Myr after the onset of the T-OAE and peaking during its termination. This major enhancement of fire occurred across the timescale of predicted pO2 variations, and we argue this was primarily driven by increased pO2. Our study provides the first fossil-based evidence suggesting that fire-feedbacks to rising pO2 may have aided in terminating the T-OAE.
We thank the Natural Environment Research Council for funding through a studentship grant NE/L501669/1 to S.J.B. C.M.B. acknowledges funding via an ERC Starter Grant ERC-2013-StG-335891-ECOFLAM. S.P.H., T.M.L. and C.M.B. acknowledge funding from the NERC ‘JET’ grant NE/N018508/1, as well as a Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit Award supporting T.M.L.
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