The culprit? Climate change.
About 250 million years ago, nearly 90 percent of the animal and plant species on land became extinct. Previously it was thought that volcanic eruptions, the impacts of asteroids, etc. was the cause.
Russian researchers have found evidence that airborne pollutants from dried giant salt lakes may have been the real cause, releasing “halogenated gases [which] changed the atmospheric composition so dramatically that vegetation was irretrievably damaged.”
What does this mean? As temperatures changed, massive salt-water lakes began to dry up, causing the air to mix with salt and form dangerous compounds previously thought created only in industrial processes. These toxic gases damaged plants, wiping out the forests and plains, with animal life following soon there-after.
From the press release:
In their current publication the authors explain the similarities between the complex processes of the CO2-cycle in the Permian Age as well as between global warming from that time and at present… Forecasts predict an increase in the surface areas of deserts and salt lakes due to climate change. That is why the researchers expect that the effects of these halogenated gases will equally increase.
According to the forecast from the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), increasing temperatures and aridity due to climate change will also speed up desertification, increasing with it the number and surface area of salt seas, salt lagoons and salt marshlands. Moreover, this will then lead to an increase in naturally formed halogenated gases. The phytotoxic effects of these substances become intensified in conjunction with other atmospheric pollutants and at the same time increasing dryness and exponentiate the eco-toxicological consequences of climate change.