Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

New theory on largest known mass extinction in the history of the earth

30.03.2009
Did volatile halogenated gases from giant salt lakes at the end of the Permian Age lead to a mass extinction of species?

The team of researchers from Russia, Austria, South Africa and Germany investigated whether a process that has been taking place since primordial times on earth could have led to global mass extinctions, particularly at the end of the Permian.

The starting point for this theory was their discovery in the south of Russia and South Africa that microbial processes in present-day salt lakes naturally produce and emit highly volatile halocarbons such as chloroform, trichloroethene, and tetrachloroethene.

They transcribed these findings to the Zechstein Sea, which about 250 million years ago in the Permian Age, was situated about where present day Central Europe is. The Zechstein Sea with a total surface area of around 600.000 km2 was almost as large as France is today.

The hyper saline flat sea at that time was exposed to a predominantly dry continental desert climate and intensive solar radiation – like today’s salt seas. "Consequently, we assume that the climatic, geo-chemical and microbial conditions in the area of the Zechstein Sea were comparable with those of the present day salt seas that we investigated," Weißflog said.

In their current publication the authors explain the similarities between the complex processes of the CO2-cycle in the Permian Age as well as between global warming from that time and at present. Based on comparable calculations from halogenated gas emissions in the atmosphere from present-day salt seas in the south of Russia, the scientists calculated that from the Zechstein Sea alone an annual VHC emissions rate of at least 1.3 million tonnes of trichloroethene, 1.3 million tonnes of tetrachloroethene, 1.1 million tonnes of chloroform as well as 0.050 million tonnes of methyl chloroform can be assumed.

By comparison, the annual global industrial emissions of trichloroethene and tetrachloroethene amount to only about 20 percent of that respectively, and only about 5 percent of the chloroform from the emissions calculated for the Zechstein Sea by the scientists. Incidentally, the industrial production of methyl chloroform, which depletes the ozone layer, has been banned since 1987 by regulation of the Montreal Protocol. “Using steppe plant species we were able to prove that halogenated gases contribute to speeding up desertification: The combination of stress induced by dryness and the simultaneous chemical stressor "halogenated hydrocarbons" disproportionately damages and destabilize the plants and speeds up the process of erosion," Dr. Karsten Kotte from the University of Heidelberg explained.

Based on both of these findings the researchers were able to form their new hypothesis: At the end of the Permian Age the emissions of halogenated gases from the Zechstein Sea and other salt seas were responsible in a complex chain of events for the world's largest mass extinction in the history of the earth, in which about 90 percent of the animal and plant species of that time became extinct.

According to the forecast from the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), increasing temperatures and aridity due to climate change will also speed up desertification, increasing with it the number and surface area of salt seas, salt lagoons and salt marshlands. Moreover, this will then lead to an increase in naturally formed halogenated gases. The phytotoxic effects of these substances become intensified in conjunction with other atmospheric pollutants and at the same time increasing dryness and exponentiate the eco-toxicological consequences of climate change.

The new theory could be like a jigsaw piece that contributes to solving the puzzle of the largest mass extinction in the history of the earth. "The question as to whether the halogenated gases from the giant salt lakes alone were responsible for it or whether it was a combination of various factors with volcanic eruptions, the impact of asteroids, or methane hydrate equally playing their role still remains unanswered," Ludwig Weißflog said. What is fact however is that the effects of salt seas were previously underestimated. In their publication the researchers working with Dr. Ludwig Weißflog from the UFZ and Dr. Karsten Kotte from the University of Heidelberg want to prove that recent salt lakes and salt deserts of south-east Europe, Middle Asia, Australia, Africa, America can not only influence the regional but also the global climate. The new findings on the effects of these halogenated gases are important for revising climate models, which form the basis for climate forecasts.

Publication:
L. Weissflog, N.F. Elanskii, K. Kotte, F. Keppler, A.
Pfennigsdorff, K. Lange E. Putz, L.V. Lisitzina (2009): O
wosmojnoi roli galogensoderjaschtschaich gasow w ismenenii
sostojanija atmosferi i prirodnoi sredi w posdnii permskii
period. Dokladi Akademii Nauk, 424:1-6 (in Russian).
http://www.maikonline.com/maik/showArticle.do?auid=VAFR1OI7XN
L. Weissflog, N.F. Elanskii, K. Kotte, F. Keppler, A.
Pfennigsdorff, C.A. Lange, E. Putz, L.V. Lisitzina (2009):
Late Permian Changes in Conditions of the Atmosphere and
Enviroments Caused by Halogenated Gases. Dokladi Earth
Sciences, Vol. 424, No. 6, pp.818-823 (in English).
DOI: 10.1134/S1028334X09020263
http://www.springerlink.com/content/t8n5118h4w180566/?p=8383a07971444193bea480c152b84936&pi=25
More Information:
Dr Ludwig Weißflog
Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ)
http://www.ufz.de/index.php?de=6784
and
Dr Karsten Kotte
Institute for Environmental geochemistry
Ruprecht-Karls University Heidelberg
Phone: +49-6221-544-803
http://umwelt-geochemie.uni-hd.de/personen_ger.htm
or
Tilo Arnhold (UFZ press officer)
Phone: +49-341-235-2278
E-mail: presse@ufz.de
Links:
Press release (February, 11th 2005): "Micro-organisms in salt
lakes produce chlorinated air pollutants. Discovery of a
new natural factor in desertification"
http://www.ufz.de/index.php?en=5329
Further Publications:
Weissflog, L., C. A. Lange, A. Pfennigsdorff, K. Kotte, N.
Elansky, L. Lisitzyna, E. Putz, and G. Krueger (2005).
Sediments of salt lakes as a new source of volatile highly
chlorinated C1/C2 hydrocarbons, Geophys. Res. Lett., 32,
L01401 DOI:10.1029/2004GL020807
Weißflog, L., Krueger, G., Elansky, N., Putz, E., Lange, C.
A., Lisitzina, L., Pfennigsdorff, A., Kotte, K. (2006). The
phytotoxic effect of C1/C2-halocarbons and trichloroacetic
acid on the steppe plant Artemisia lerchiana, Chemosphere
65 (6), 975-980
DOI:10.1016/j.chemosphere.2006.03.039
At the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) scientists research the causes and consequences of far-reaching environmental changes. They study water resources, biological diversity, the consequences of climate change and adaptation possibilities, environmental and biotechnologies, bio energy, the behaviour of chemicals in the environment and their effect on health, as well as

modelling and social science issues. Their guiding research principle is supporting the sustainable use of natural resources and helping to secure these basic requirements of life over the long term under the influence of global change. The UFZ employs 900 people at its sites in Leipzig, Halle and Magdeburg. It is funded by the German government and by the states of Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt. The Helmholtz Association helps solve major, pressing challenges facing society, science and the economy with top scientific achievements in six research areas: Energy, Earth and Environment, Health, Key Technologies, Structure of Matter, Transport and Space. With 28,000 employees in 15 research centres and an annual budget of around EUR 2.4 billion, the Helmholtz Association is Germany’s largest scientific organisation. Its work follows in the tradition of the great natural scientist Hermann von Helmholtz(1821-1894).

Tilo Arnhold | Helmholtz-Zentrum
Further information:
http://www.ufz.de/index.php?en=17896

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Predicting unpredictability: Information theory offers new way to read ice cores
07.12.2016 | Santa Fe Institute

nachricht Sea ice hit record lows in November
07.12.2016 | University of Colorado at Boulder

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Significantly more productivity in USP lasers

In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.

Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...

Im Focus: Shape matters when light meets atom

Mapping the interaction of a single atom with a single photon may inform design of quantum devices

Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

Im Focus: MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.

The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

Closing the carbon loop

08.12.2016 | Life Sciences

Applicability of dynamic facilitation theory to binary hard disk systems

08.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

Scientists track chemical and structural evolution of catalytic nanoparticles in 3-D

08.12.2016 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>