The Silica Balance in the World Ocean: A Reestimate

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Science  21 Apr 1995:
Vol. 268, Issue 5209, pp. 375-379
DOI: 10.1126/science.268.5209.375


The net inputs of silicic acid (dissolved silica) to the world ocean have been revised to 6.1 ± 2.0 teramoles of silicon per year (1 teramole = 1012 moles). The major contribution (about 80 percent) comes from rivers, whose world average silicic acid concentration is 150 micromolar. These inputs are reasonably balanced by the net ouputs of biogenic silica of 7.1 ± 1.8 teramoles of silicon per year in modern marine sediments. The gross production of biogenic silica (the transformation of dissolved silicate to particulate skeletal material) in surface waters was estimated to be 240 ± 40 teramoles of silicon per year, and the preservation ratio (opal accumulation in sediment/gross production in surface waters) averages 3 percent. In the world ocean the residence time of silicon, relative to total biological uptake in surface waters, is about 400 years.

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