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End-Permian extinction amplified by plume-induced release of recycled lithospheric volatiles

Nature Geosciencevolume 11pages682687 (2018) | Download Citation


Magmatic volatile release to the atmosphere can lead to climatic changes and substantial environmental degradation including the production of acid rain, ocean acidification and ozone depletion, potentially resulting in the collapse of the biosphere. The largest recorded mass extinction in Earth’s history occurred at the end of the Permian, coinciding with the emplacement of the Siberian large igneous province, suggesting that large-scale magmatism is a key driver of global environmental change. However, the source and nature of volatiles in the Siberian large igneous province remain contentious. Here we present halogen compositions of sub-continental lithospheric mantle xenoliths emplaced before and after the eruption of the Siberian flood basalts. We show that the Siberian lithosphere is massively enriched in halogens from the infiltration of subducted seawater-derived volatiles and that a considerable amount (up to 70%) of lithospheric halogens are assimilated into the plume and released to the atmosphere during emplacement. Plume–lithosphere interaction is therefore a key process controlling the volatile content of large igneous provinces and thus the extent of environmental crises, leading to mass extinctions during their emplacement.

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Change history

  • 12 October 2018

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This work is dedicated to L.A.T, who passed away in 2017. L.A.T. devoted his life to science and teaching, serving as an excellent mentor to P.H.B. during his time at University of Tennessee. This work was financially supported though a NERC studentship NE/J500057/1 (to M.W.B.) and NERC (NE/M000427/1) and ERC (ERC-267692 NOBLE) grants to C.J.B. and R.B. P.H.B. was funded by an NSF fellowship (EAR-114455) to investigate the geochemical signatures in these samples.

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Author notes

    • Michael W. Broadley

    Present address: Centre de Recherches Pétrographiques et Géochimiques, Vandoeuvre-Lès-Nancy, France


  1. School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, The University of Manchester, Manchester, UK

    • Michael W. Broadley
    •  & Ray Burgess
  2. Department of Earth Sciences, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK

    • Peter H. Barry
    •  & Chris J. Ballentine
  3. Department of Earth and Planetary Science, The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN, USA

    • Lawrence A. Taylor


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M.W.B., P.H.B. and R.B. conceived the project and prepared the initial manuscript. L.A.T. provided the samples and M.W.B. and R.B. performed the analysis. All authors contributed to data interpretation and preparation of the final manuscript.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Michael W. Broadley.

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  1. Supplementary Information

    Supplementary information on samples, geological background and calculations; Supplementary Figures 1–4; Supplementary Tables 1–4.

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