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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

"Clay mineral continental amplifier for marine carbon sequestration in a greenhouse ocean" by Martin J. Kennedy & Thomas Wagner, PNAS (May 16, 2011)

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, published online before print May 16, 2011; doi: 10.1073/pnas.1018670108

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

  1. Martin J. Kennedya,* and 
  2. Thomas Wagnerb
+Author Affiliations
  1. aSchool of Earth and Environmental Science, University of Adelaide, Adelaide 5005, Australia; and
  2. bSchool of Civil Engineering and Geosciences, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 7RU, United Kingdom
  1. Edited by Louis Derry, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, and accepted by the Editorial Board April 14, 2011 (received for review December 16, 2010).


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.

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