Paper No. 3
Presentation Time: 1:30 PM
RECOVERY VS. RESTRUCTURING: ESTABLISHING ECOLOGIC PATTERNS IN EARLY AND MIDDLE TRIASSIC PALEOCOMMUNITIES
Published data has been interpreted as indicating that marine ecological devastation following the end-Permian mass extinction was protracted and may have lasted 5 million years into the Middle Triassic (Anisian). However, a review of previous literature shows that understanding of biotic recovery is typically based on only a few components of the ecosystem, such as on taxonomic diversity, a single genus/phylum, or shallow water facies. Typically, paleocommunities are considered fully recovered when dominance and diversity are regained and normal ecosystem functioning has resumed. However, in addition to the biodiversity crash at the end of the Permian, taxonomic and ecologic structure changed, with the extinction marking the faunal shift from brachiopod-rich Paleozoic Evolutionary Fauna (EF) to the mollusc-rich Modern EF. This suggests that the extreme reorganizational nature of the Triassic does not adhere to the standard definition of recovery, which is a return to previous conditions. Thus, we propose the term “restructuring” to describe this interval, as Early and Middle Triassic communities might not exhibit the typical characteristics of a “normal” Permian one. To more fully characterize Triassic ecologic restructuring, paleoecologists should take into account functional diversity and redundancy.
We quantified functional richness and regularity in four different paleocommunities from classic Permian and Triassic sections. Functional richness was low in paleocommunities after the end-Permian mass extinction, but increased to high levels by the Middle Triassic. In contrast, functional regularity was low in the Middle Permian, but high in all the Triassic paleocommunities. The change from low to high functional regularity/redundancy at the P/T boundary may be a factor of the highly stressful Triassic environmental conditions (i.e. anoxia, hypercapnia), as high regularity in a community can boost survival in harsh environments. Parameters such as these will more accurately establish if the biotic patterns represent either failed biotic restructuring or a fully restructured marine community adapted to harsh Triassic environments.