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Efficient preservation of young terrestrial organic carbon in sandy turbidity-current deposits

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Sanem Acikalin Cartigny, Dr Claire McGhee



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


Burial of terrestrial biospheric particulate organic carbon in marine sediments removesCO2 from the atmosphere, regulating climate over geologic time scales. Rivers deliver terrestrialorganic carbon to the sea, while turbidity currents transport river sediment furtheroffshore. Previous studies have suggested that most organic carbon resides in muddy marinesediment. However, turbidity currents can carry a significant component of coarser sediment,which is commonly assumed to be organic carbon poor. Here, using data from a Canadianfjord, we show that young woody debris can be rapidly buried in sandy layers of turbiditycurrent deposits (turbidites). These layers have organic carbon contents 10× higher thanthe overlying mud layer, and overall, woody debris makes up >70% of the organic carbonpreserved in the deposits. Burial of woody debris in sands overlain by mud caps reducestheir exposure to oxygen, increasing organic carbon burial efficiency. Sandy turbidity currentchannels are common in fjords and the deep sea; hence we suggest that previous globalorganic carbon burial budgets may have been underestimated.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Hage S, Galy VV, Cartigny MBJ, Acikalin S, Clare MA, Grocke DR, Hilton RG, Hunt JE, Lintern DG, McGhee CA, Parsons DR, Stacey CD, Sumner EJ, Talling PJ

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Geology

Year: 2020

Volume: 48

Issue: 9

Pages: 882-887

Online publication date: 29/05/2020

Acceptance date: 13/04/2020

Date deposited: 23/11/2020

ISSN (print): 2542-6567

ISSN (electronic): 2542-6575

Publisher: Bentham Science Publishers Ltd.


DOI: 10.1130/G47320.1


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Funder referenceFunder name
International Association of Sedimentologists Postgraduate Grant
National Oceanography Centre Southamp-ton–WHOI exchange program funds
Royal Society Research Fellowship