The Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM) was the most rapid and significant climatic warming pulse of the past 65 million years. This project investigates the response of organisms to the PETM, informing our understanding of current global warming in similar habitats.
The PETM occurred around 55.8 million years ago. Global temperatures rose by 6°C, leading to an increase in atmospheric CO2 levels comparable to the rate of current anthropogenic warming.
Some organisms were unable to adapt to rapidly changing environmental conditions and became extinct. These included:
Little is known about the response of shallow-water marine organisms to the PETM and how coastal ecosystems themselves may have changed.
We are studying molluscs and cartilaginous fish (sharks and rays) from extensive fossil deposits in north west Europe to answer these questions:
Coastal ecosystems around the world are increasingly fragile and ecologically degraded. Many communities depend upon these environments for a wide range of ecosystem services.
We hope that documenting the response of organisms to the PETM will help us to predict the result of current global warming in these habitats.