Abstract

Enhanced regional subduction-related volcanism in the South China craton concurrent with Siberian Traps large igneous province magmatism was a likely contributor to major biotic and environmental stresses associated with the Permian-Triassic boundary (ca. 252 Ma) mass extinction. However, the timing, intensity, and duration of this regional volcanic activity remain uncertain. We analyzed mercury (Hg) concentrations in three widely separated marine sections in the South China craton (Shangsi, Ganxi, and Chaohu) as well as Hg isotopic compositions in one section (Shangsi) from the Upper Permian (Changhsingian) through the lowermost Triassic (Induan) in order to track volcanic inputs. Four mercury enrichment (ME) intervals, dating to the lowermost Changhsingian (ME1), mid–Clarkina changxingensis zone (ME2), upper C. changxingensis to lower C. yini zones (ME3), and latest Permian mass extinction (LPME) interval (ME4), were recognized on the basis of elevated Hg/total organic carbon ratios. These records provide evidence of strong volcanism in the Tethyan region starting ∼2 m.y. before the LPME, whereas only the ME4 event is recorded in extra-Tethyan sections. Mercury isotopes support the inference that pre-LPME Hg peaks were related to regional subduction-related volcanism, and that Hg emissions at the LPME were the result of Siberian Traps large igneous province intrusions into organic-rich sediments. This study demonstrates the feasibility of distinguishing flood-basalt from subduction-related volcanic inputs on the basis of marine sedimentary Hg records.

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