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Clay mineral continental amplifier for marine carbon sequestration in a greenhouse ocean

Kennedy, Martin J., Wagner, Thomas
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 2011 v.108 no.24 pp. 9776-9781
basins, carbon, carbon sequestration, clay, climatic factors, drilling, greenhouses, hypoxia, runoff, sediments, surface area, weathering, Africa
The majority of carbon sequestration at the Earth's surface occurs in marine continental margin settings within fine-grained sediments whose mineral properties are a function of continental climatic conditions. We report very high mineral surface area (MSA) values of 300 and 570 m² g in Late Cretaceous black shales from Ocean Drilling Program site 959 of the Deep Ivorian Basin that vary on subcentennial time scales corresponding with abrupt increases from approximately 3 to approximately 18% total organic carbon (TOC). The observed MSA changes with TOC across multiple scales of variability and on a sample-by-sample basis (centimeter scale), provides a rigorous test of a hypothesized influence on organic carbon burial by detrital clay mineral controlled MSA. Changes in TOC also correspond with geochemical and sedimentological evidence for water column anoxia. Bioturbated intervals show a lower organic carbon loading on mineral surface area of 0.1 mg-OC m⁻² when compared to 0.4 mg-OC m⁻² for laminated and sulfidic sediments. Although either anoxia or mineral surface protection may be capable of producing TOC of < 5%, when brought together they produced the very high TOC (10-18%) apparent in these sediments. This nonlinear response in carbon burial resulted from minor precession-driven changes of continental climate influencing clay mineral properties and runoff from the African continent. This study identifies a previously unrecognized land-sea connection among continental weathering, clay mineral production, and anoxia and a nonlinear effect on marine carbon sequestration during the Coniacian-Santonian Oceanic Anoxic Event 3 in the tropical eastern Atlantic.