The marine sulfur cycle is intimately linked to global carbon fluxes, atmospheric composition, and climate, yet relatively little is known about how it responded to the end-Permian biocrisis, the largest mass extinction of the Phanerozoic. Here, we analyze carbonate-associated-sulfate (CAS) from three Permo-Triassic sections in South China in order to document the behavior of the C-S cycle and its relationship to marine environmental changes during the mass extinction and its aftermath. We find that δ34SCAS varied from +9‰ to +44‰ at rates up to 100‰Myr-1 during the Griesbachian-Smithian substages of the Early Triassic. We model the marine sulfur cycle to demonstrate that such rapid variation required drawdown of seawater sulfate concentrations to ≤4mM and a reduction in its residence time to ≤200kyr. This shorter residence time resulted in positive covariation with δ13Ccarb due to strong coupling of the organic carbon and pyrite burial fluxes. Carbon and sulfur isotopic shifts were associated with contemporaneous changes in climate, marine productivity, and microbial sulfate reduction rates, with negative shifts in δ13Ccarb and δ34SCAS linked to warming, decreased productivity, and reduced sulfate reduction. Sustained cooling during the Spathian re-invigorated oceanic overturning circulation, reduced marine anoxia, and limited pyrite burial. As seawater sulfate built to higher concentrations during the Spathian, the coupling of the marine C and S cycles came to an end and a general amelioration of marine environmental conditions set the stage for a recovery of invertebrate faunas. Variation in seawater sulfate during the Early Triassic was probably controlled by climate change, possibly linked to major eruptive phases of the Siberian Traps.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Geochemistry and Petrology