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A diurnal carbon engine explains 13C-enriched carbonates without increasing the global production of oxygen

Author(s): Geyman, Emily C; Maloof, Adam C

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Abstract: In the past 3 billion years, significant volumes of carbonate with high carbon-isotopic (δ13C) values accumulated on shallow continental shelves. These deposits frequently are interpreted as records of elevated global organic carbon burial. However, through the stoichiometry of primary production, organic carbon burial releases a proportional amount of O2, predicting unrealistic rises in atmospheric pO2 during the 1 to 100 million year-long positive δ13C excursions that punctuate the geological record. This carbon–oxygen paradox assumes that the δ13C of shallow water carbonates reflects the δ13C of global seawater-dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC). However, the δ13C of modern shallow-water carbonate sediment is higher than expected for calcite or aragonite precipitating from seawater. We explain elevated δ13C in shallow carbonates with a diurnal carbon cycle engine, where daily transfer of carbon between organic and inorganic reservoirs forces coupled changes in carbonate saturation (ΩA) and δ13C of DIC. This engine maintains a carbon-cycle hysteresis that is most amplified in shallow, sluggishly mixed waters with high rates of photosynthesis, and provides a simple mechanism for the observed δ13C-decoupling between global seawater DIC and shallow carbonate, without burying organic matter or generating O2.
Publication Date: 3-Dec-2019
Citation: Geyman, Emily C., and Adam C. Maloof. "A diurnal carbon engine explains 13C-enriched carbonates without increasing the global production of oxygen." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 116, no. 49 (2019): 24433-24439. doi:10.1073/pnas.1908783116.
DOI: doi:10.1073/pnas.1908783116
ISSN: 0027-8424
EISSN: 1091-6490
Pages: 24433 - 24439
Language: eng
Type of Material: Journal Article
Journal/Proceeding Title: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Version: Final published version. This is an open access article.

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