Through geology and palaeontology, they've shown how higher temperatures and lower oxygen levels caused drastic changes to marine communities, and that while the Jurassic seas eventually recovered from the effects of global warming, the marine ecosystems that returned were noticeably different from before.
The results of the Natural Environment Research Council-funded project are revealed for the first time in this month's PLOS ONE scientific journal.
Professor Richard Twitchett, from the University's School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, and a member of its Marine Institute, said: "Our study of fossil marine ecosystems shows that if global warming is severe enough and lasts long enough it may cause the extinction of marine life, which irreversibly changes the composition of marine ecosystems."
Professor Twitchett, with Plymouth colleagues Dr Silvia Danise and Dr Marie-Emilie Clemence, undertook fieldwork between Whitby and Staithes, studying the different sedimentary rocks and the marine fossils they contained. This provided information about the environmental conditions on the sea floor at the time the rocks were laid down.
The researchers, working with Dr Crispin Little from the University of Leeds, were then able to correlate the ecological data with published data on changes in temperature, sea level and oxygen concentrations.
Dr Danise said: "Back in the laboratory, we broke down the samples and identified all of the fossils, recording their relative abundance much like a marine biologist would do when sampling a modern environment. Then we ran the ecological analyses to determine how the marine seafloor community changed through time."
The team found a 'dead zone' recorded in the rock, which showed virtually no signs of life and contained no fossils. This was followed by evidence of a return to life, but with new species recorded.
Professor Twitchett added: "The results show in unprecedented detail how the fossil Jurassic communities changed dramatically in response to a rise in sea level and temperature and a decline in oxygen levels.
"Patterns of change suffered by these Jurassic ecosystems closely mirror the changes that happen when modern marine communities are exposed to declining levels of oxygen. Similar ecological stages can be recognised in the fossil and modern communities despite differences in the species present and the scale of the studies."
The NERC project – 'The evolution of modern marine ecosystems: environmental controls on their structure and function' – runs until March 2015, and is one of four funded under their Coevolution of Life and the Planet research programme.
Andrew Merrington | EurekAlert!
New Study Will Help Find the Best Locations for Thermal Power Stations in Iceland
19.01.2017 | University of Gothenburg
Water - as the underlying driver of the Earth’s carbon cycle
17.01.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Biogeochemie
An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...
Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...
Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.
While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...
Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales
Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...
Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.
As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...
19.01.2017 | Event News
10.01.2017 | Event News
09.01.2017 | Event News
20.01.2017 | Awards Funding
20.01.2017 | Materials Sciences
20.01.2017 | Life Sciences