Hovius Niels

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  • Preprint
    Microbial oxidation of lithospheric organic carbon in rapidly eroding tropical mountain soils
    ( 2018-02-15) Hemingway, Jordon D. ; Hilton, Robert G. ; Hovius, Niels ; Eglinton, Timothy I. ; Haghipour, Negar ; Wacker, Lukas ; Chen, Meng-Chiang ; Galy, Valier
    Lithospheric organic carbon (“petrogenic”; OCpetro) is oxidized during exhumation and subsequent erosion within mountain ranges. This process is a significant source of CO2 to the atmosphere over geologic timescales, but the mechanisms that govern oxidation rates in mountain landscapes remain poorly constrained. We demonstrate that, on average, 67 ± 11 % of OCpetro initially present in bedrock exhumed from the tropical, rapidly eroding Central Range of Taiwan is oxidized within soils, leading to CO2 emissions of 6.1 – 18.6 t C km-2 yr-1. The molecular and isotopic evolution of bulk OC and lipid biomarkers during soil formation reveals that OCpetro remineralization is microbially mediated. Rapid oxidation in mountain soils drives CO2 emissions fluxes that increase with erosion rate, thereby counteracting CO2 drawdown by silicate weathering and biospheric OC burial.