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  1. Oxygen bioavailability is declining in aquatic systems worldwide as a result of climate change and other anthropogenic stressors. For aquatic organisms, the consequences are poorly known but are likely to reflect both direct effects of declining oxygen bioavailability and interactions between oxygen and other stressors, including two—warming and acidification— that have received substantial attention in recent decades and that typically accompany oxygen changes. Drawing on the collected papers in this symposium volume (“An Oxygen Perspective on Climate Change”), we outline the causes and consequences of declining oxygen bioavailability. First, we discuss the scope of natural and predicted anthropogenic changes in aquatic oxygen levels. Although modern organisms are the result of long evolutionary histories during which they were exposed to natural oxygen regimes, anthropogenic change is now exposing them to more extreme conditions and novel combinations of low oxygen with other stressors. Second, we identify behavioral and physiological mechanisms that underlie the interactive effects of oxygen with other stressors, and we assess the range of potential organismal responses to oxygen limitation that occur across levels of biological organization and over multiple timescales. We argue that metabolism and energetics provide a powerful and unifying framework for understanding organism-oxygen interactions. Third,we conclude bymore »outlining a set of approaches for maximizing the effectiveness of future work, including focusing on long-term experiments using biologically realistic variation in experimental factors and taking truly cross disciplinary and integrative approaches to understanding and predicting future effects.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available October 1, 2023
  2. The decline in background extinction rates of marine animals through geologic time is an established but unexplained feature of the Phanerozoic fossil record. There is also growing consensus that the ocean and atmosphere did not become oxygenated to near-modern levels until the mid-Paleozoic, coinciding with the onset of generally lower extinction rates. Physiological theory provides us with a possible causal link between these two observations—predicting that the synergistic impacts of oxygen and temperature on aerobic respiration would have made marine animals more vulnerable to ocean warming events during periods of limited surface oxygenation. Here, we evaluate the hypothesis that changes in surface oxygenation exerted a first-order control on extinction rates through the Phanerozoic using a combined Earth system and ecophysiological modeling approach. We find that although continental configuration, the efficiency of the biological carbon pump in the ocean, and initial climate state all impact the magnitude of modeled biodiversity loss across simulated warming events, atmospheric oxygen is the dominant predictor of extinction vulnerability, with metabolic habitat viability and global ecophysiotype extinction exhibiting inflection points around 40% of present atmospheric oxygen. Given this is the broad upper limit for estimates of early Paleozoic oxygen levels, our results are consistent with themore »relative frequency of high-magnitude extinction events (particularly those not included in the canonical big five mass extinctions) early in the Phanerozoic being a direct consequence of limited early Paleozoic oxygenation and temperature-dependent hypoxia responses.

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  3. The Ediacaran Period (635 to 541 Ma) marks the global transition to a more productive biosphere, evidenced by increased availability of food and oxidants, the appearance of macroscopic animals, significant populations of eukaryotic phytoplankton, and the onset of massive phosphorite deposition. We propose this entire suite of changes results from an increase in the size of the deep-water marine phosphorus reservoir, associated with rising sulfate concentrations and increased remineralization of organic P by sulfate-reducing bacteria. Simple mass balance calculations, constrained by modern anoxic basins, suggest that deep-water phosphate concentrations may have increased by an order of magnitude without any increase in the rate of P input from the continents. Strikingly, despite a major shift in phosphorite deposition, a new compilation of the phosphorus content of Neoproterozoic and early Paleozoic shows little secular change in median values, supporting the view that changes in remineralization and not erosional P fluxes were the principal drivers of observed shifts in phosphorite accumulation. The trigger for these changes may have been transient Neoproterozoic weathering events whose biogeochemical consequences were sustained by a set of positive feedbacks, mediated by the oxygen and sulfur cycles, that led to permanent state change in biogeochemical cycling, primary production, andmore »biological diversity by the end of the Ediacaran Period.« less
  4. The extent to which Paleozoic oceans differed from Neoproterozoic oceans and the causal relationship between biological evolution and changing environmental conditions are heavily debated. Here, we report a nearly continuous record of seafloor redox change from the deep-water upper Cambrian to Middle Devonian Road River Group of Yukon, Canada. Bottom waters were largely anoxic in the Richardson trough during the entirety of Road River Group deposition, while independent evidence from iron speciation and Mo/U ratios show that the biogeochemical nature of anoxia changed through time. Both in Yukon and globally, Ordovician through Early Devonian anoxic waters were broadly ferruginous (nonsulfidic), with a transition toward more euxinic (sulfidic) conditions in the mid–Early Devonian (Pragian), coincident with the early diversification of vascular plants and disappearance of graptolites. This ~80-million-year interval of the Paleozoic characterized by widespread ferruginous bottom waters represents a persistence of Neoproterozoic-like marine redox conditions well into the Phanerozoic.
  5. The rise of animals occurred during an interval of Earth history that witnessed dynamic marine redox conditions, potentially rapid plate motions, and uniquely large perturbations to global biogeochemical cycles. The largest of these perturbations, the Shuram carbon isotope excursion, has been invoked as a driving mechanism for Ediacaran environmental change, possibly linked with evolutionary innovation or extinction. However, there are a number of controversies surrounding the Shuram, including its timing, duration, and role in the concomitant biological and biogeochemical upheavals. Here we present radioisotopic dates bracketing the Shuram on two separate paleocontinents; our results are consistent with a global and synchronous event between 574.0 ± 4.7 and 567.3 ± 3.0 Ma. These dates support the interpretation that the Shuram is a primary and synchronous event postdating the Gaskiers glaciation. In addition, our Re-Os ages suggest that the appearance of Ediacaran macrofossils in northwestern Canada is identical, within uncertainty, to similar macrofossils from the Conception Group of Newfoundland, highlighting the coeval appearance of macroscopic metazoans across two paleocontinents. Our temporal framework for the terminal Proterozoic is a critical step for testing hypotheses related to extreme carbon isotope excursions and their role in the evolution of complex life.

  6. Cambrian–Devonian sedimentary rocks of the northern Canadian Cordillera record both the establishment and demise of the Great American Carbonate Bank, a widespread carbonate platform system that fringed the ancestral continental margins of North America (Laurentia). Here, we present a new examination of the deep-water Road River Group of the Richardson Mountains, Yukon, Canada, which was deposited in an intra-platformal embayment or seaway within the Great American Carbonate Bank called the Richardson trough. Eleven detailed stratigraphic sections through the Road River Group along the upper canyon of the Peel River are compiled and integrated with geological mapping, facies analysis, carbonate and organic carbon isotope chemostratigraphy, and new biostratigraphic results to formalize four new formations within the type area of the Richardson Mountains (Cronin, Mount Hare, Tetlit, and Vittrekwa). We recognize nine mixed carbonate and siliciclastic deep-water facies associations in the Road River Group and propose these strata were deposited in basin-floor to slope environments. New biostratigraphic data suggest the Road River Group spans the late Cambrian (Furongian) – Middle Devonian (Eifelian), and new chemostratigraphic data record multiple global carbon isotopic events, including the late Cambrian Steptoean positive carbon isotope excursion, the Late Ordovician Guttenberg excursion, the Silurian Aeronian, Valgu, Mulde (mid-Homerian),more »Ireviken (early Sheinwoodian), and Lau excursions, and the Early Devonian Klonk excursion. Together, these new data not only help clarify nomenclatural debate centered around the Road River Group, but also provide critical new sedimentological, biostratigraphic, and isotopic data for these widely distributed rocks of the northern Canadian Cordillera.« less
  7. Terrestrial environments have been suggested as an oxic haven for eukaryotic life and diversification during portions of the Proterozoic Eon when the ocean was dominantly anoxic. However, iron speciation and Fe/Al data from the ca. 1.1-billion-year-old Nonesuch Formation, deposited in a large lake and bearing a diverse assemblage of early eukaryotes, are interpreted to indicate persistently anoxic conditions. To shed light on these distinct hypotheses, we analyzed two drill cores spanning the transgression into the lake and its subsequent shallowing. While the proportion of highly reactive to total iron (Fe HR /Fe T ) is consistent through the sediments and typically in the range taken to be equivocal between anoxic and oxic conditions, magnetic experiments and petrographic data reveal that iron exists in three distinct mineral assemblages resulting from an oxycline. In the deepest waters, reductive dissolution of iron oxides records an anoxic environment. However, the remainder of the sedimentary succession has iron oxide assemblages indicative of an oxygenated environment. At intermediate water depths, a mixed-phase facies with hematite and magnetite indicates low oxygen conditions. In the shallowest waters of the lake, nearly every iron oxide has been oxidized to its most oxidized form, hematite. Combining magnetics and textural analysesmore »results in a more nuanced understanding of ambiguous geochemical signals and indicates that for much of its temporal duration, and throughout much of its water column, there was oxygen in the waters of Paleolake Nonesuch.« less