An integrated biomarker, isotopic and palaeoenvironmental study through the Late Permian event at Lusitaniadalen, Spitsbergen

Birgit Nabbefeld, Kliti Grice*, Richard J. Twitchett, Roger E. Summons, Lindsay Hays, Michael E. Böttcher, Muhammad Asif

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    100 Citations (Scopus)


    The largest extinction of the Phanerozoic occurred near the Permian/Triassic (P/Tr) boundary some 252 Ma ago. Several scenarios and drivers have been proposed for this event. Here we report for the first time an integrated study comprising sedimentological data, biomarker distributions/abundances and selected stable carbon and hydrogen isotopes along with bulk isotopes (δ34Spyrite, δ13Ccarb, δ13Corg) for a Late Permian section from Lusitaniadalen, Spitsbergen, Norway. Sedimentological and geochemical data support a marine transgression and collapse of the marine ecosystem in the Late Permian. Strong evidence for waxing and waning of photic zone euxinia throughout the Late Permian is provided by Chlorobiaceae-derived biomarkers (including δ13C data) and δ34Spyrite, implying multiple phases of H2S outgassing and potentially several pulses of extinction. A rapid decrease in abundance of various land-plant biomarkers prior to the marine collapse event indicates a dramatic decline of land-plants during the Late Permian and/or increasing distance from palaeoshoreline as a consequence of sea level rise. Changes in δD of selected biomarkers also suggest a change in source of organic matter (OM) or sea level rise. We also found biomarker and isotopic evidence for a phytoplanktonic bloom triggered by eutrophication as a consequence of the marine collapse. Compound specific isotope analyses (CSIA) of algal and land-plant-derived biomarkers, as well as δ13C of carbonate and bulk OM provide strong evidence for synchronous changes in δ13C of marine and atmospheric CO2, attributed to a 13C-depleted source. The source could be associated with isotopically depleted methane released from the melting of gas clathrates and/or from respired OM, due to collapse of the marine ecosystem.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)84-96
    Number of pages13
    JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
    Issue number1-4
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2010


    • biomarker
    • carbon isotopes
    • hydrogen isotopes
    • methane clathrates
    • Permian
    • photic zone euxinia
    • Spitsbergen
    • sulfur isotopes
    • Triassic


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