The Emeishan Traps constitute a flood basalt volcanic province, or large igneous province, in southwestern China, centered in Sichuan province. It is sometimes referred to as the Permian Emeishan Large Igneous Province or variations of that term.
It is named for Emeishan, a mountain in Sichuan.
Like other volcanic provinces or "traps," the Emeishan Traps are multiple layers of igneous rock laid down by large mantle plume volcanic eruptions. The eruptions that produced the Emeishan Traps began c. 260 million years ago (Ma). In volume, the Emeishan Traps are dwarfed by the massive Siberian Traps, which occurred, in terms of the geological time scale, not long after, at c. 251 Ma. Nonetheless, the Emeishan Traps eruptions were serious enough to have global ecological and paleontological impact. The Emeishan Traps are associated with the so-called end-Guadalupian Extinction or End-Capitanian extinction event, the extinction of animal and plant life that occurred at the end of the Capitanian stage of the Guadalupian epoch of the Permian period.
As such, the Emeishan Traps form one aspect of the larger scientific debate on the causes of mass extinctions. The synchrony between the Emeishan Traps and the end-Guadalupian extinction has been taken to support the argument, supported by Vincent Courtillot among many others, that volcanism is the main driver of mass extinctions. In the context of the opposing argument, that mass extinctions are caused by meteor or comet impact events, a hypothesis has been proposed that the Emeishan Traps eruptions (and other traps-generating flood basalt eruptions) are themselves caused by impact events — though the hypothesis is highly controversial.
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