A terrestrial vegetation turnover in the middle of the Early Triassic

Ryosuke Saito, Kunio Kaiho, Masahiro Oba, Satoshi Takahashi, Zhong Qiang Chen, Jinnan Tong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)


Land-plant productivity was greatly reduced after the end-Permian mass extinction, causing a pronounced "coal gap" worldwide during the Early Triassic. Newly obtained organic geochemistry data from the Chaohu area, south China, indicated an abrupt and profound terrestrial vegetation change over the middle part of the Early Triassic Smithian-Spathian (S-S) interval. Herbaceous lycopsids and/or bryophytes dominated terrestrial vegetation from Griesbachian to Smithian times. The terrestrial ecosystem underwent an abrupt change, and woody conifers became dominant over the S-S interval. Several important biomarkers, namely retene, simonellite, and dehydroabietane (with multiple sources: conifer, lycopsid, and/or herbaceous bryophyte), were relatively abundant during Griesbachian, Dienerian, and Smithian times. The relatively low C/N ratio values during the Griesbachian-Smithian interval indicate that these biomarkers were likely sourced from herbaceous lycopsids and/or bryophytes. The extremely abundant conifer-sourced pimanthrene, combined with relatively high C/N ratio values, suggested the recovery of woody conifers after the S-S boundary. The new data revealed that the switch from herbaceous vegetation to woody coniferous vegetation marked a terrestrial plant recovery, which occurred globally within 3 million years after the end-Permian crisis rather than at a later date estimated in previous studies. In Chaohu, the S-S terrestrial event was marked by a reappearance of woody vegetation, while the S-S marine event was marked by an increase in ichnodiversity, trace complexity, burrow size, infaunal tiering level, and bioturbation level, and a possible intense upwelling event indicated by the extended tricyclic terpane ratios (ETR). Coeval vegetation changes with comparable patterns have also been documented in Europe and Pakistan based on palynologic studies. The S-S boundaries in Asia and Europe are associated with a positive δ13C excursion, the rebound of woody vegetation, a turnover of ammonoid faunas, and possible global climate cooling. This is the first study to document the S-S event using biomarkers and C/N ratios.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)152-159
Number of pages8
JournalGlobal and Planetary Change
Publication statusPublished - 2013 Jun


  • Biomarker
  • Chaohu
  • Early Triassic
  • Mass extinction
  • Plant
  • Recovery
  • South China
  • Vegetation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Oceanography


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