In the past 300 million years, there has been a near-perfect association between extinction events and the eruption of large igneous provinces, but proving the nature of the causal links is far from resolved. The associated environmental changes often include global warming and the development of widespread oxygen-poor conditions in the oceans. This implicates a role for volcanic CO2 emissions, but other perturbations of the global carbon cycle, such as release of methane from gas hydrate reservoirs or shut-down of photosynthesis in the oceans, are probably required to achieve severe greenhouse warming. The best links between extinction and eruption are seen in the interval from 300 to 150 Ma. With the exception of the Deccan Trap eruptions (65 Ma), the emplacement of younger volcanic provinces has been generally associated with significant environmental changes but little or no increase in extinction rates above background levels.1

You do not currently have access to this article.