Carbon isotopic composition and lattice-bound carbonate of Peru-Chile margin phosphorites

Craig R. Glenn, Michael A. Arthur, Hseuh Wen Yeh, William C. Burnett

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51 Scopus citations


New light-stable carbonate-carbon isotope and lattice-bound CO2 data from Quaternary Peru-Chile margin phosphatic nodules, crusts and pelletal grains, and from associated dolomicritic concretions, are presented, which provide constraints on the timing and mechanisms of growth of these phases in organic carbon-rich sediments. Comparison of δ13C values from carbonate fluorapatite (CFA) nodules and pelletal grains (-4.8 to 0.0‰ and -2.9 to +1.0‰ PDB, respectively) with pore-water total dissolved δ13C values from these sediments suggests early authigenic CFA precipitation from pore waters within a few centimeters of the sediment-water interface in association with suboxic to perhaps anoxic microbial degradation of organic matter. In contrast, the dolomicritic cores of nodules recovered from about 12°S display both strongly negative to positive δ13C values (-10.8 to +6.1‰) characteristic of formation deeper in the sediments in association with methanogenic and perhaps sulfate reduction microbial processes. The amount of structural carbonate in CFA suggests that carbonate substitution generally increases as δ13C in CFA decreases, a probable consequence of increasing carbonate and accompanying charge-balancing substitutions in the CFA lattice in response to increasing pore-water carbonate ion concentrations with depth below the sediment-water interface. In one buried upward-growing nodule, decreasing CFA δ13C and increasing structural CO2 also correspond to decreasing CFA growth rates. These data suggest that in addition to other constraints such as pore-water phosphorus and fluoride availability, the lower limit of CFA precipitation in suboxic to anoxic sediments may be controlled by lattice poisoning due to excessive dissolved carbonate ion concentrations. In organic-rich Peru-Chile margin sediments this depth threshold appears to be at approximately 5-10 cm below the sediment-water interface where maximum CFA CO2 contents of about 6 Wt.% occur; in less organic-rich settings, greater depths of precipitation of CFA may be anticipated. Below this relatively shallow depth of CFA precipitation on the Peru shelf, high pore-water alkalinity and associated elevated total dissolved carbon and carbonate ion concentration apparently favor the precipitation of authigenic carbonates.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)287-307
Number of pages21
JournalMarine Geology
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - May 1988

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Oceanography
  • Geology
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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