Introduction

IGCP 632 project “Continental Crises of the Jurassic: Major Extinction events and Environmental Changes within Lacustrine Ecosystems” specifically focuses on the interactions between the major events and climate, and the correlations between the evolution of these ancient lacustrine ecosystems and the marine realm during the Jurassic Period, starting with the mass extinction event that occurred 202 million years ago just prior to the Triassic-Jurassic boundary, through the Toarcian anoxic event 183 million years ago and finally covering the Jurassic-Cretaceous boundary at 145 million years ago.

The Jurassic period was bound by two mass-extinctions, witnessed the rise to ecological dominance of the dinosaurs, the evolution of birds, extant subclasses of mammals, various major invertebrate fauna and flora, the fragmentation of Pangea, and two huge flood basalt events, both associated with massive biotic change, all in a context of generally elevated CO2 and muted longitudinal temperature gradients. Despite the high-profile and charismatic nature of Jurassic fauna and environments, most of the major events of the period remain poorly constrained, as does the overall climatic context, especially in high-latitude settings. Particularly poorly understood is the role of zonal climate belts in the greenhouse world of the Jurassic and how the major events of that period are expressed along meridional climate gradients.

This project offers new insights into the timing and causes of major perturbations in the evolution of life on Earth, covering the entire Jurassic-stretching from the Jurassic-Triassic mass extinction event to the development of Early Cretaceous Lake systems. Besides the improved stratigraphy, climate data and global palaeoenvironmental interpretations in the Jurassic period, this project should provide new data and clarify the causal mechanism behind two major events in the Earth history: the Triassic-Jurassic mass extinction event and the Toarcian anoxic event, with implications for climatology, ecology and biodiversity.