Pelagic Sedimentation of Aragonite: Its Geochemical Significance

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Science  27 Feb 1981:
Vol. 211, Issue 4485, pp. 940-942
DOI: 10.1126/science.211.4485.940


The relative importance of the pelagic flux of aragonite, as compared to calcite, to the deep-sea floor has been evaluated by means of a quantitative x-ray diffraction study of samples collected from sediment traps and from an unusually shallow portion of the open Atlantic Ocean (the Rio Grande Rise). The results suggest that the aragonite flux constitutes at least 12 percent of the total flux of calcium carbonate on a worldwide basis. The presence of high-magnesium calcite in several samples suggests that some of the calcareous material falling to the deep-sea floor may be derived from the long-distance transport of debris from shallow-water beenthic organisms as well as from the settling of planktonic remains. This observation supports the contention that 12 percent represents a minimum value. Aragonite and high-magnesium calcite transported laterally from shallow-water regions, upon dissolution during settling into deeper water, may contribute to the neutralization of excess anthropogenic carbon dioxide added to the oceans.