The end-Permian extinction is typically ascribed to massive volcanic eruptions, but direct geochemical evidence linking the two independent events is generally lacking. Zinc is an important micronutrient of marine phytoplanktons, and Zn isotope (δ66Zn) ratios of seawater are markedly higher than those of volcanic rocks and riverine waters. We conducted high-resolution Zn concentration and Zn isotope analyses on carbonate rocks across the Permian-Triassic boundary (PTB) in the Meishan section of south China. An abrupt increase of Zn concentration and a concomitant 0.5‰ decrease in δ66Zn occur ∼35 k.y. before the mass extinction and carbon isotope (δ13C) minima. Mass balance calculation demonstrates that a 0.5‰ negative shift in δ66Zn within thousands of years requires rapid and massive input of isotopically light Zn from volcanic ashes, hydrothermal inputs, and/or extremely fast weathering of large igneous provinces. A positive δ66Zn shift of as much as 1.0‰ following the mass extinction demonstrates that primary productivity recovered and reached a maximum in fewer than 360 k.y. Our finding provides insights into the marine Zn cycling across the PTB and clarifies the temporal relationship and duration of events, including intensive volcanism, carbon isotope excursion, mass extinction, and widespread ocean anoxia.
- Received 30 September 2016.
- Revision received 17 December 2016.
- Accepted 23 December 2016.
- © 2017 Geological Society of America