The Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum: A Perturbation of Carbon Cycle, Climate, and Biosphere with Implications for the Future
During the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM), ∼56 Mya, thousands of petagrams of carbon were released into the ocean-atmosphere system with attendant changes in the carbon cycle, climate, ocean chemistry, and marine and continental ecosystems. The period of carbon release is thought to have lasted <20 ka, the duration of the whole event was ∼200 ka, and the global temperature increase was 5-8°C. Terrestrial and marine organisms experienced large shifts in geographic ranges, rapid evolution, and changes in trophic ecology, but few groups suffered major extinctions with the exception of benthic foraminifera. The PETM provides valuable insights into the carbon cycle, climate system, and biotic responses to environmental change that are relevant to long-term future global changes.