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Reburial of fossil organic carbon in marine sediments

Dickens, Angela F. and Gélinas, Yves and Masiello, Caroline A. and Wakeham, Stuart and Hedges, John I. (2004) Reburial of fossil organic carbon in marine sediments. Nature, 427 (6972). pp. 336-339. ISSN 0028-0836. doi:10.1038/nature02299.

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Marine sediments act as the ultimate sink for organic carbon, sequestering otherwise rapidly cycling carbon for geologic timescales. Sedimentary organic carbon burial appears to be controlled by oxygen exposure time in situ, and much research has focused on understanding the mechanisms of preservation of organic carbon. In this context, combustion-derived black carbon has received attention as a form of refractory organic carbon that may be preferentially preserved in soils and sediments. However, little is understood about the environmental roles, transport and distribution of black carbon. Here we apply isotopic analyses to graphitic black carbon samples isolated from pre-industrial marine and terrestrial sediments. We find that this material is terrestrially derived and almost entirely depleted of radiocarbon, suggesting that it is graphite weathered from rocks, rather than a combustion product. The widespread presence of fossil graphitic black carbon in sediments has therefore probably led to significant overestimates of burial of combustion-derived black carbon in marine sediments. It could be responsible for biasing radiocarbon dating of sedimentary organic carbon, and also reveals a closed loop in the carbon cycle. Depending on its susceptibility to oxidation, this recycled carbon may be locked away from the biologically mediated carbon cycle for many geologic cycles.

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Additional Information:© 2004 Nature Publishing Group. Received 25 September; accepted 16 December 2003. We thank the scientific staff at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory Center for Accelerator Mass Spectrometry for assistance with radiocarbon analyses, C. Preston and C. Swanston for radiocarbon analysis of the Stillaguamish River sample, S. Petsch and R. Smernik for providing kerogen samples for analysis, and P. Quay and E. Druffel for editing and comments. This work was supported by a mini-grant from LLNL CAMS and by grants from the NSF; A.F.D. thanks the NSF for a graduate research fellowship; Y.G. thanks the Canadian NSERC and Quebec NATEQ for support for this work.
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Lawrence Livermore National LaboratoryUNSPECIFIED
NSF Graduate Research FellowshipUNSPECIFIED
Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC)UNSPECIFIED
Fonds de recherche du Québec - Nature et technologiesUNSPECIFIED
Issue or Number:6972
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20150326-090955815
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Official Citation:Dickens, A. F., Gelinas, Y., Masiello, C. A., Wakeham, S., & Hedges, J. I. (2004). Reburial of fossil organic carbon in marine sediments. [10.1038/nature02299]. Nature, 427(6972), 336-339.
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:56110
Deposited By: Jason Perez
Deposited On:26 Mar 2015 19:59
Last Modified:10 Nov 2021 20:54

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