Response of marine ecosystems to deep-time global warming: a synthesis of biotic patterns across the Paleocene-Eocene thermal maximum (PETM)

This paper provides a synthesis of the long- and short-term response of various marine ecosystems (deep oceans, pelagic, pelitic shelves and carbonate platforms) to the Paleocene-Eocene thermal maximum (PETM) and its broader paleoclimatic and paleoceanographic context. Despite the severity and sudden onset of global warming the PETM is not marked by a mass extinction event. The only major extinction is among bathyal to abyssal calcareous benthic foraminifera, including some calcareous agglutinated taxa. Co-existing non-calcareous deep water agglutinated foraminifera, ostracodes and trace fossils show prominent changes in composition, population structure and biodiversity, but there is no clear evidence of global extinctions. Except for the deep-sea calcareous benthic foraminiferal record, the PETM is best classified as a migration and origination event and was instrumental in kick-starting various short- and long-term evolutionary innovations in marine microfossil lineages. In pelagic and shallow shelf ecosystems, migration and origination during and after the PETM appears to precede extinction in the aftermath of the PETM. The response of most marine invertebrates (mollusks, echinoderms, brachiopods) to paleoclimatic and associated environmental changes (e.g., acidification, deoxygenation) during the PETM is virtually unknown as continuous high-resolution data of these groups spanning the PETM are unexplored and possibly not or hardly preserved. Yet information on these groups is required in order to improve assessments of the value of biotic records to deep-time global warming in the context of current climate change. In contrast, the relatively well-established response of Tethyan reef systems to late Paleocene-early Eocene global warming may provide a potential analog to a – possibly bleak – future of present-day coral reefs.

Speijer R. P., Scheibner C., Stassen P. & Morsi A.-M. M., 2012. Response of marine ecosystems to deep-time global warming: a synthesis of biotic patterns across the Paleocene-Eocene thermal maximum (PETM). Austrian Journal of Earth Sciences 105(1): 6-16. Article.


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