Mineralogical control on the fate of continentally derived organic matter in the ocean

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Science  08 Nov 2019:
Vol. 366, Issue 6466, pp. 742-745
DOI: 10.1126/science.aax5345

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Bound to rock

Organic matter binds to phyllosilicates, a process which affects both its transport and chemical stability. How does that affect the fate of terrestrial organic carbon that enters the ocean? Blattmann et al. show that organic carbon derived from soils is stripped from mineral surfaces upon discharge and dispersal into the ocean, whereas organic matter derived from ancient rocks is preserved there. Their results show that preservation of continentally derived organic matter in marine sediments is controlled largely by phyllosilicate mineralogy.

Science, this issue p. 742


First-order relationships between organic matter content and mineral surface area have been widely reported and are implicated in stabilization and long-term preservation of organic matter. However, the nature and stability of organomineral interactions and their connection with mineralogical composition have remained uncertain. In this study, we find that continentally derived organic matter of pedogenic origin is stripped from smectite mineral surfaces upon discharge, dispersal, and sedimentation in distal ocean settings. In contrast, organic matter sourced from ancient rocks that is tightly associated with mica and chlorite endures in the marine realm. These results imply that the persistence of continentally derived organic matter in ocean sediments is controlled to a first order by phyllosilicate mineralogy.

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