Indian Fossil Bed Being Ground Into Cement

This video is about the Permian-Triassic mass extinction.

From National Geographic:

Indian Fossil Bed Being Ground Into Cement

Paroma Basu in New Delhi, India
for National Geographic News

February 6, 2008

A fossil-rich region of India’s war-torn state of Kashmir could be blasted out of existence by mining operations, according to eyewitness accounts by geologists.

Fossil beds in the rocky Guryul Ravine, just south of the city of Srinagar, date back 260 million years to the pre-dinosaur Permian period.

Specimens from the site include primordial corals, small invertebrates, plants, and a group of mammal-like reptiles known as therapsids. (See pictures of the ancient creatures of the Permian.)

But the fossils lie inside rich tracts of limestone—a key ingredient in cement manufacturing.

Local authorities declared the Guryul site a protected area last year and claim that mining activities have ceased.

But there are still quarry owners who supply stone chips to small-scale cement factories in nearby towns, said Ghulam Mohamad Bhat, a sediment geologist at Kashmir’s University of Jammu.

Bigger pieces of exploded rock are used in road and housing construction.

Quarry operators earn about 600 rupees (U.S. $15) per truckload of stones, according to a recent report in the Telegraph, a leading daily newspaper of eastern India.

“Underhanded mining has gone on for years and is still going on,” Bhat said. “Sadly, the fossil section at Guryul has been entirely put to sale.” …

Most of these creatures perished in a massive extinction event that took place between the Permian and Triassic periods about 251 million years ago.

While the event is also captured in stone in other parts of the world, including Iran and China, it is best preserved in the Kashmir section, Bhat said.

“Studying these fossils can tell us how life evolved afresh after the extinction,” Bhat said.

The Triassic therapsid Placerias: here.

5 thoughts on “Indian Fossil Bed Being Ground Into Cement

  1. 25.03.2008 / 11:56 World’s greatest extinction not caused by toxic gases
    NEW YORK. March 25. KAZINFORM. Poisonous, ozone-destroying gases bubbling out of the oceans may not have triggered the world’s greatest mass extinction after all, a new study shows.

    The “Great Dying” took place about 251 million years ago, at the end of the Permian period, when the world lost about 90 percent of its ocean species and 70 percent of its land species.

    Scientists had suspected that the cause was high levels of hydrogen sulfide and methane in the atmosphere, which poisoned creatures and caused a collapse of the protective ozone layer.

    “Toward the end of the Permian, we had a warming climate with much more carbon dioxide than today, ocean circulation was extremely sluggish, and the oceans became anoxic—essentially deprived of oxygen,” explained geobiologist and study co-author David Beerling from the University of Sheffield in England.

    Under these conditions, ocean microbes metabolize sulfur to produce hydrogen sulfide, which could have built up in the ocean and then welled up into the atmosphere.

    “There is evidence for massive methane release at the end Permian as well, either from warming oceans or from coal deposits heated by extreme volcanic activity at around the same time,” Beerling said.

    But the discovery that the chemicals were unlikely to build up enough to destroy ozone leaves scientists hunting for another answer to the mystery of what caused such a biological catastrophe.

    Self-Cleaning System

    Beerling and his colleagues set up computer simulations of the Permian oceans and atmosphere to predict what might have happened when different amounts of hydrogen sulfide and methane were added to the mix.

    “We found some interesting things going on with ozone chemistry, but we didn’t find any evidence that hydrogen sulfide and methane triggered a collapse of the ozone layer,” Beerling said.

    Previous models also used figures averaged for the globe—examining only altitude and not latitude—and thus overlooked the effects of hydroxyl radicals, he added.

    “These are chemicals produced mainly at the tropics that oxidize [and thus neutralize] ozone-destroying pollutants,” Beerling said.

    Even when extremely high levels of hydrogen sulfide were added to the two-dimensional models, hydroxyl radicals mopped them up and prevented ozone collapse.

    The study appears in the latest issue of the journal Nature Geoscience.

    Not So Disastrous

    Lee Kump, a geochemist from Pennsylvania State University in University Park, was involved in earlier studies that predicted catastrophically high hydrogen sulfide levels at the end of the Permian.

    The conditions created by earlier models “should have wiped out all life on Earth and not allowed anything to survive,” Kump said. “It would have been impossible to hide from.”

    Kump said he welcomes the new study since it mitigates the dire consequences of anoxic oceans and helps to explain how some life managed to hold on.

    But he also warned that the chemicals probably still played a substantial role in the mass extinction.

    “Hydrogen sulfide levels may not have been enough to trigger ozone collapse. Nevertheless, these new models still show substantial increases,” Kump said.

    “We don’t know what the consequences of that would be for terrestrial life.”

    Co-author Beerling added: “Hydrogen sulfide poisoning in the ocean is still a possibility. Our calculations don’t rule that out.”

    UV Damage

    Scientists also believe that the ozone layer still suffered some sort of collapse during the Permian—but that another set of chemicals was responsible.

    Researchers, for example, have discovered mutated plant pollen that supports the theory that a depleted ozone layer was allowing damaging levels of ultraviolet light to reach Earth’s surface.

    “There is a very high increase in the abundance of tetrads—weird, mutated spores—in end-Permian rocks from all around the world,” Beerling said, Kazinform quotes National Geographic News.

    “This new study shows quite nicely that the collapse of the ozone layer may have required other circumstances than simply a large increase in hydrogen sulfide flux into the atmosphere,” Kump added.

    One alternative theory is that a bout of massive volcanic activity known as the Siberian Traps released hydrochloric acid and organohalides into the air.

    “Volcanic activity is an even more likely explanation for the extinctions now, because we have ruled out these other possible alternatives from the list,” Beerling said.

    Paul Wignall, a palaeobiologist from the University of Leeds in England, was not involved in the study.

    “Now that this study has shown the hydrogen-sulfide-and-methane model is unlikely to work, we’re back to square one and scratching around for an extinction mechanism,” Wignall said.

    He pointed out, however, that the volcanic theories are still pure speculation.

    “They might be correct about organohalogens,” he said, “but there is no supporting field evidence yet.”


  2. 45 species of flora face threat of extinction in Sikkim

    Gangtok (PTI): Forty five species of flora are facing extinction in Sikkim, a Botanial Survey of India (BSI) report has said.

    Plant species like aconitum ferox, dioscorea deltoid, pseudotenesa, acronema and ephedra gerrardiana are some of those which are endangered, senior BSI scientist Kanad Das said.

    The findings came to light recently when a BSI team undertook an exercise to update the status of the flora species in Sikkim.

    The survey was in particular aimed at identifying the endemic, endangered and threatened species of the flora in the Himalayan state, Das said, adding the status of the floral species in Sikkim on the basis of the latest survey would be sent to the Centre.

    BSI has infrastructure, including nurseries, to preserve various floral species and so if any particular species of flora faces threat of extinction then such plants could be replaced by a preserved ones, Das said.

    Sikkim has about 4,400 varieties of flora species.


  3. Pingback: Indian fossils threatened by corporate greed | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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