Together with my excellent friend and colleague Dr Bryony Caswell, I have written a paper in a new Special Publication of the Geological Society (volume 529) on the Conservation Palaeobiology of Marine Ecosystems.
We looked at the types of fossil burrows and bivalves preserved in the early Jurassic rocks of North Yorkshire, especially at Runswick Bay and Kettleness; East Cliff and Saltwick Bay, Whitby; and Ravenscar; to try and understand what happened on the seafloor before, during, and after a period known as the Toarcian anoxic event.
At this time, North Yorkshire was at a Mediterranean latitude, and covered by shallow seas, at the north-western edge of the Tethys Ocean. Volcanic eruptions in present-day southern Africa and Antarctica, linked to the break-up of Gondwana, caused global warming and sea-level rise. North Yorkshire’s warmer, deeper waters became stinky and stratified, which had a profoundly unpleasant effect on the creatures that lived there.
Our paper – Marine bioturbation collapse during Early Jurassic deoxygenation: implications for post-extinction marine ecosystem functioning – argues that burrowing activity disappeared from the North Yorkshire seafloor for at least 600,000 years. It may have been for as long as 2.5 million years. Either way, the area was hit more severely than anywhere else in north-west Tethys.
Understanding what happened where and when during ancient environmental crises can help us predict what might happen in the future, as our seas and oceans are affected by anthropogenic climate change.
If you’d care to, you can download the accepted version of our manuscript below:
When the final version is published, it will be behind a paywall, but if you contact the authors I am sure they will be happy to help.