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ArticleMillennial soil retention of terrestrial organic matter deposited in the Bengal Fan(Nature Publishing Group, 2018-08-10) French, Katherine L. ; Hein, Christopher J. ; Haghipour, Negar ; Wacker, Lukas ; Kudrass, Hermann ; Eglinton, Timothy I. ; Galy, ValierThe abundance of organic carbon (OC) in vegetation and soils (~2,600 PgC) compared to carbon in the atmosphere (~830 PgC) highlights the importance of terrestrial OC in global carbon budgets. The residence time of OC in continental reservoirs, which sets the rates of carbon exchange between land and atmosphere, represents a key uncertainty in global carbon cycle dynamics. Retention of terrestrial OC can also distort bulk OC- and biomarker-based paleorecords, yet continental storage timescales remain poorly quantified. Using “bomb” radiocarbon (14C) from thermonuclear weapons testing as a tracer, we model leaf-wax fatty acid and bulk OC 14C signatures in a river-proximal marine sediment core from the Bay of Bengal in order to constrain OC storage timescales within the Ganges-Brahmaputra (G-B) watershed. Our model shows that 79–83% of the leaf-waxes in this core were stored in continental reservoirs for an average of 1,000–1,200 calendar years, while the remainder was stored for an average of 15 years. This age structure distorts high-resolution organic paleorecords across geologically rapid events, highlighting that compound-specific proxy approaches must consider storage timescales. Furthermore, these results show that future environmental change could destabilize large stores of old - yet reactive - OC currently stored in tropical basins.
PreprintPost-glacial climate forcing of surface processes in the Ganges–Brahmaputra river basin and implications for carbon sequestration( 2017-08) Hein, Christopher J. ; Galy, Valier ; Galy, Albert ; France-Lanord, Christian ; Kudrass, Hermann ; Schwenk, TilmannClimate has been proposed to control both the rate of terrestrial silicate weathering and the export rate of associated sediments and terrestrial organic carbon to river-dominated margins – and thus the rate of sequestration of atmospheric CO2 in the coastal ocean – over glacial-interglacial timescales. Focused on the Ganges-Brahmaputra rivers, this study presents records of post-glacial changes in basin-scale Indian summer monsoon intensity and vegetation composition based on stable hydrogen (δD) and carbon (δ13C) isotopic compositions of terrestrial plant wax compounds preserved in the channel-levee system of the Bengal Fan. It then explores the role of these changes in controlling the provenance and degree of chemical weathering of sediments exported by these rivers, and the potential climate feedbacks through organic-carbon burial in the Bengal Fan. An observed 40‰ shift in δD and a 3–4‰ shift in both bulk organic-carbon and plant-wax δ13C values between the late glacial and mid-Holocene, followed by a return to more intermediate values during the late Holocene, correlates well with regional post-glacial paleoclimate records. Sediment provenance proxies (Sr, Nd isotopic compositions) reveal that these changes likely coincided with a subtle focusing of erosion on the southern flank of the Himalayan range during periods of greater monsoon strength and enhanced sediment discharge. However, grain-size-normalized organic-carbon concentrations in the Bengal Fan remained constant through time, despite order-of-magnitude level changes in catchment-scale monsoon precipitation and enhanced chemical weathering (recorded as a gradual increase in K/Si* and detrital carbonate content, and decrease in H2O+/Si*, proxies) throughout the study period. These findings demonstrate a partial decoupling of climate change and silicate weathering during the Holocene and that marine organic-carbon sequestration rates primary reflect rates of physical erosion and sediment export as modulated by climatic changes. Together, these results reveal the magnitude of climate changes within the Ganges-Brahmaputra basin following deglaciation and a closer coupling of monsoon strength with OC burial than with silicate weathering on millennial timescales.
PreprintEfficient organic carbon burial in the Bengal fan sustained by the Himalayan erosional system( 2007-10-04) Galy, Valier ; France-Lanord, Christian ; Beyssac, Olivier ; Faure, Pierre ; Kudrass, Hermann ; Palhol, FabienContinental erosion controls atmospheric carbon dioxide levels on geological timescales through silicate weathering, riverine transport and subsequent burial of organic carbon in oceanic sediments. The efficiency of organic carbon deposition in sedimentary basins is however limited by the organic carbon load capacity of the sediments and organic carbon oxidation in continental margins. At the global scale, previous studies have suggested that about 70 per cent of riverine organic carbon is returned to the atmosphere, such as in the Amazon basin. Here we present a comprehensive organic carbon budget for the Himalayan erosional system, including source rocks, river sediments and marine sediments buried in the Bengal fan. We show that organic carbon export is controlled by sediment properties, and that oxidative loss is negligible during transport and deposition to the ocean. Our results indicate that 70 to 85 per cent of the organic carbon is recent organic matter captured during transport, which serves as a net sink for atmospheric carbon dioxide. The amount of organic carbon deposited in the Bengal basin represents about 10 to 20 per cent of the total terrestrial organic carbon buried in oceanic sediments. High erosion rates in the Himalayas generate high sedimentation rates and low oxygen availability in the Bay of Bengal that sustain the observed extreme organic carbon burial efficiency. Active orogenic systems generate enhanced physical erosion and the resulting organic carbon burial buffers atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, thereby exerting a negative feedback on climate over geological timescales.