The end-Permian mass extinction (ca. 252 Ma) represents the most severe biotic crisis of the Phanerozoic, and it was accompanied by profound environmental perturbations, especially to the global carbon cycle, as indicated by sharp negative carbon isotope excursions (CIE) in both carbonates (δ13Ccarb) and organic matter (δ13Corg). To date, carbon isotope records are mostly from marine Permian-Triassic transitional sequences with relatively few high-resolution carbon isotope profiles having been generated for terrestrial facies. Terrestrial Permian-Triassic sequences suitable for high-resolution carbon isotope study are rare globally and are difficult to correlate with better-studied marine sequences. However, carbon isotope records from continental facies are essential to a full understanding of global carbon cycle changes during the Permian-Triassic transition. Here, we present bulk δ13Corg profiles for three terrestrial sections in North China representing Permian-Triassic transitional beds. These profiles exhibit similar patterns of secular variation defining three stages: (1) a pre-CIE interval, (2) a CIE interval, characterized by a rapid negative shift of 1.7‰–2.2‰ within the middle part of the Sunjiagou Formation, and (3) a post-CIE interval. The similarity of the CIE in all three study sections facilitates correlations among them, and its presence in the Permian-Triassic transitional beds suggests that it is equivalent to the negative CIE at the Permian-Triassic boundary in the Meishan global stratotype section and point (GSSP) and in coeval marine and terrestrial sections globally. The end-Permian CIE was probably triggered by a massive release of 13C-depleted carbon from volcanogenic sources leading to elevated atmospheric pCO2, although oceanic sources of CO2 cannot be ruled out at present.

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