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Shallow marine ecosystem collapse and recovery during the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum

September 21, 2021

The Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM), the most well-studied transient hyperthermal event in Earth history, is characterized by prominent and dynamic changes in global marine ecosystems. Understanding such biotic responses provides valuable insights into future scenarios in the face of anthropogenic warming. However, evidence of the PETM biotic responses is largely biased towards deep-sea records, whereas shallow-marine evidence remains scarce and elusive. Here we investigate a shallow-marine microfaunal record from Maryland, eastern United States, to comprehensively document the shallow-marine biotic response to the PETM. We applied birth-death modeling to estimate the local diversity dynamics, combined with evaluation of time-variable preservation artifacts. We discovered strong increase of species disappearance and appearance predating the onset and at the final recovery phase of the PETM, respectively. Our paleoecological analyses indicate that bathymetric habitat compression due to extreme warmth and oxygen minimum zone expansion caused shallow-marine benthic species extirpation and ecosystem perturbation during the PETM; and that rapid recovery and diversification followed the PETM disaster, thus contributing new understanding to the shallow-marine biotic changes in a broad context of global warming.