Carbon cycling and habitability of earth-sized stagnant lid planets

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Models of thermal evolution, crustal production, and CO2 cycling are used to constrain the prospects for habitability of rocky planets, with Earth-like size and composition, in the stagnant lid regime. Specifically, we determine the conditions under which such planets can maintain rates of CO2 degassing large enough to prevent global surface glaciation but small enough so as not to exceed the upper limit on weathering rates provided by the supply of fresh rock, a situation which would lead to runaway atmospheric CO2 accumulation and an inhospitably hot climate. The models show that stagnant lid planets with initial radiogenic heating rates of 100-250 TW, and with total CO2 budgets ranging from ∼10-2 to 1 times Earth's estimated CO2 budget, can maintain volcanic outgassing rates suitable for habitability for≈1-5 Gyr; larger CO2 budgets result in uninhabitably hot climates, while smaller budgets result in global glaciation. High radiogenic heat production rates favor habitability by sustaining volcanism and CO2 outgassing longer. Thus, the results suggest that plate tectonics may not be required for establishing a long-term carbon cycle and maintaining a stable, habitable climate. The model is necessarily highly simplified, as the uncertainties with exoplanet thermal evolution and outgassing are large. Nevertheless, the results provide some first-order guidance for future exoplanet missions, by predicting the age at which habitability becomes unlikely for a stagnant lid planet as a function of initial radiogenic heat budget. This prediction is powerful because both planet heat budget and age can potentially be constrained from stellar observations. Key Words: Exoplanets - Habitability - Stagnant lid tectonics - Carbon cycle - Volcanism. Astrobiology 18, 873-896.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)873-896
Number of pages24
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science


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