Description / Table of Contents:
PREFACE This volume presents results from members of the Project 216 "Global Biological Events in Earth History" of the International Geological Correlation Programme (IGCP). The project, initiated by the elder editor (O.H.W.) within the framework of the International Palaeontological Association (IPA) in the late 70s, was officially established in 1984. Subsequently, it led to the first three conferences on Global Bio-Events, and their respective symposia volumes: 1) In G6ttingen, West Germany in 1986 (WaUiser, O. H., Ed., 1986, Global Bio-Events, Springer-Verlag); in Bilbao, Spain in 1987 (Lamolda, M. A., Kauffrnan, E. G., and Walliser, O. H., Eds., 1988, Paleontology and Evolution: Extinction Events; Rev. Espafiola de Paleont., n. extraord.); and in Boulder, Colorado, U.S.A. in 1988 (this volume). The next meeting, on Innovations and Revolutions in the Biosphere, is planned in Oxford, England in 1990, to be hosted by Martin Brasier. During the history of this project, the focus of our research has shifted significantly. Initial focus was on specific global mass extinctions (e.g. the Precambrian/Cambrian, Frasnian/Fammenian, Cretaceous/Tertiary, and Eocene/Oligocene events) to a broader treatment of Phanerozoic mass extinctions, their differences or unifying factors, and their causal mechanisms. Subsequent meetings have attempted to focus attention on a fuller spectrum of global bio-events in Earth history. The Boulder Conference, and this volume, although still strongly influenced by the excitement of mass extinction research, expresses these new trends in bioevent studies. The Boulder conference, held on May 16-23, 1988, focused on a broad spectrum of Abrupt Changes in the Global Biota. Over 100 participants from 13 nations attended this meeting, representing diverse disciplines of palaeobiology, palaeoclimatology, palaeoceanography, sedimentology, geochemistry, and a broad spectrum of the stratigraphic and geological sciences. Four days of talks were supplemented by field trips to the continental Cretaceous/Tertiary boundary in the Raton Basin, New Mexico, and to the Cenomanian/Turonian mass extinction interval exposed near Pueblo, Colorado. The Conference itself was characterized by a great diversity of approaches to bio-event research, and the phenomenon of mass extinction. In particular, interactive causes involving both extraterrestrial and earthbound (tectonic, oceanographic, climatic) forces were discussed, and each major Phanerozoic mass extinction was treated by specialists in the field. In addition, many presentations focused on the causal mechanism and patterns of bio-event development that were not restricted to mass extinction intervals, but which could cause regional to global biotic response at any time in Earth history. Thus, both the conference, and this volume, focus attention on climatic and oceanic perturbations from anoxia, advection, rapid thermal change, toxic chemical enrichment, and energy shock from impacts and giant tsunamis as forcing mechanism for regional to global bio-events. The delicate balance of perched ocean/ctimate~fe systems under typical warm equable non-glacial Phanerozoic conditions, and their susceptibility to shock from even small perturbations, was a philosophical theme that ran throughout the meeting. The case for extraterrestrial forcing of tectonic, volcanic, and biological events was greatly strengthened by new data presented at this conference, with special concern for the effects of small comet/meteorite impacts in the oceans, and their chemical/physical/biological signature which might be used, in the absence of shocked minerals, microspheres or trace metals, to identify extraterrestrial events associated with global and regional bio-events. The conference benefitted from the introduction of much new data at high levels of resolution, especially from poorly studied mass extinction intervals. Interactive discussions, and many new ideas characterized the meeting. The new scientific results of this meeting are exciting; they are reviewed in the Conference Report published in Episodes (1988, v. 11, n. 4, p. 289-292). Most of the key papers presented at the Boulder meeting appear in this volume. What lies ahead in bio-event research? Clearly, a great deal of excitement and an age of discovery. We have only touched the surface of this new and dynamic field. We are starting to comprehend the dynamics of global mass extinctions, integrating detailed geochemical, physical and biological data into scenarios of cause and effect. But in the years ahead lies the job of understanding the whole spectrum of regional bioevents preserved in the ancient record, and especially the application of this research to solutions of the critical problems inherent in global change and the modern biotic crisis. Future directions for research at this conference include the investigation and modeling of abrupt chemical and thermal shifts in the ocean, the effects of impacts at deep ocean sites, the documentation of successful survival strategies and repopulation patterns following biotic crises, the deep ocean record of bio-events, and focus on alternative forces other than impacting to account for mass extinction events. This volume introduces some of these new pathways in bio-event research.
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