A salt lake in Namibia - makes you just want to jump right in doesn't it? Pic Credit: Dr. Karsten Kotte/Universität Heidelberg
A new report by an international team of scientists has suggested that the largest mass extinction in the history of the earth may not have been caused by volcanic eruptions, methane hydrate or the impact of an asteroid as previously surmised. It may actually have been triggered by giant salt lakes, whose emissions of halogenated gases changed the atmospheric composition to such an extent that vegetation was irretrievably damaged. While this is a lot less dramatic than a volcanic eruption or an asteroid, the effect would be no less devastating and may have implications for us today with forecasts predicting an increase in the surface areas of deserts and salt lakes due to climate change that researchers expect will also lead to an increase in the effects of these halogenated gases.