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Mineral Surface Control of Organic Carbon in Black Shale

Science  25 Jan 2002:
Vol. 295, Issue 5555, pp. 657-660
DOI: 10.1126/science.1066611

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Abstract

We show that 85% of variation in total organic carbon can be explained by mineral surface area in a black shale deposit from two locations in the late Cretaceous Western Interior Seaway, United States. This relation suggests that, as in modern marine sediments, adsorption of carbon compounds onto clay mineral surfaces played a fundamental role in the burial and preservation of organic carbon. Our data also provide evidence for organic matter within the smectite interlayer. This association implies that organic carbon sequestration in a representative oil-prone black shale facies may be more closely related to patterns of continental weathering and clay mineralogy than to ocean water chemistry or marine productivity.

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