The role of pyroclastic volcanism in Ordovician diversification
Joseph P. Botting, 2002. "The role of pyroclastic volcanism in Ordovician diversification", Palaeobiogeography and Biodiversity Change: the Ordovician and Mesozoic–Cenozoic Radiations, J. A. Crame, A. W. Owen
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Pyroclastic volcanism has been tentatively correlated with Ordovician faunal diversification, but it is unclear whether the volcanism itself or associated tectonic effects were more influential. Elevated nutrient flux from uplifted areas has been widely discussed, but the link between enhanced productivity and diversification is unclear. Ecosystem com-partmentalization due to irregular topography was probably significant, but it is debatable whether this was sufficient to explain the entire diversification. This paper introduces a further volcanic process, which may have been more significant than these established hypotheses, although it is emphasized that all relevant factors acted in combination. Recent studies of the local ecological effects of ash-fall have revealed dramatic post-depositional plankton and benthic blooms associated with overturning of a stratified water mass. The data are consistent through all studied sections from the Builth Inlier, Central Wales, while deeper-water sediments showed plankton blooms only. Repeated bloom events over localized dysaerobic shelf areas may have produced temporary benthic ‘islands‘, enhanced genetic heterogeneity within affected regions, and increased speciation rates. In order to maximize bloom intensity (and possible effects on evolution), this process requires widespread pyroclastic volcanism combined with extensive shelf areas with well-developed stratification. The hypothesis potentially allows explanation of the differential rates of evolution between different groups, particularly the decoupled planktic-benthic patterns. A preliminary test using Welsh Basin ostracodes is presented, with predictions for the global database results.
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The study of biodiversity through geological time provides important information for the understanding of diversity patterns at the present day. Hitherto, much effort has been paid to studying the mass extinctions of the Phanerozoic but the research emphasis has now changed to focus on what occurred between these spectacular catastrophic events. After the Cambrian ‘explosion’ of marine organisms with readily preservable skeletons, there have been two intervals when life radiated dramatically — the Ordovician Period, and the mid-Mesozoic-Cenozoic eras. These intervals saw a fundamental reorganization of biodiversity on a hierarchy of biogeographical scales. The size of these diversity increases and their probable causes are topics of intense debate, and there is an intriguing link between the dispersal of continents, changing climates and the proliferation of life.
The papers in this volume are written by palaeontologists, biogeographers and geologists addressing the highly topical field of palaeobiodiversity in the context of the Earth’s changing geography. Palaeobiogeography and Biodiversity Change: the Ordovician and Mesozoic-Cenozoic Radiations illustrates many aspects of the two great episodes of biotic radiation and shows how long periods of time and plate tectonic movements have a fundamental influence on the generation and maintenance of major extant biodiversity patterns.
The volume will be of interest to professional palaeontologists, biologists and geologists, as well as to students in earth and biological sciences.