During this massive extinction, more than 90% of the marine species an almost 70% of the terrestrial living forms, plants and animals, disappeared from the face of the Earth.
A new research suggests that this extinction event that happened during the Permian-Triassic period and is known as the “Great Dying”, was caused by ocean acidification, at least some of it.
The study says that extreme volcanic activity that happened in the Siberian Traps started to release a great amount of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which triggered the beginning of the mass extinction event. The scientists believe this happened over a period of more than 60,000 years.
The researchers published the findings of their study in the journal Science, which claims that the oceans became too acidic when they absorbed the released carbon dioxide. The acid level was so high in the ocean that living creatures started to die.
The new study says that this marked the beginning of the second stage of the mass extinction event.
Matthew Clarkson, a specialist in geochemistry at the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand and one of the lead authors of the study, explained that for a long time scientists believed that ocean acidification happened during the biggest mass extinction in the history of our planet, but until now they didn’t have any evidence.
The researchers analyzed the rocks from United Arab Emirates, which at the time of the extinction event were on the ocean floor.
The analysis showed that there was a shift in the pH levels of the ocean, which for approximately 10,000 years. The experts managed to determine this by comparing the ratios of the boron isotopes found in the rocks that date back to the Permian age.
Clarkson said that the change in the oceans’ acidity was massive and it happened so fast that the oceans could not handle the amount of carbon dioxide that was released.
While the new study explains the mass extinction that happened at the end of the Permian age, it also sheds light on how life currently exists on Earth.
The findings of the study will help the researchers understand the threat marine life is facing because of the ocean acidification that is happening in the present.
“This is a worrying finding, considering that we can already see an increase in ocean acidity today that is the result of human carbon emissions.”
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