An evaluation of the C/N ratio of the mantle from natural CO2-rich gas analysis: Geochemical and cosmochemical implications
Barry, Peter H.
Bekaert, David V.
Broadley, Michael W.
Byrne, David J.
Ballentine, Christopher J.
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The terrestrial carbon to nitrogen ratio is a key geochemical parameter that can provide information on the nature of Earth's precursors, accretion/differentiation processes of our planet, as well as on the volatile budget of Earth. In principle, this ratio can be determined from the analysis of volatile elements trapped in mantle-derived rocks like mid-ocean ridge basalts (MORB), corrected for fractional degassing during eruption. However, this correction is critical and previous attempts have adopted different approaches which led to contrasting C/N estimates for the bulk silicate Earth (BSE) (Marty and Zimmermann, 1999; Bergin et al., 2015). Here we consider the analysis of CO2-rich gases worldwide for which a mantle origin has been determined using noble gas isotopes in order to evaluate the C/N ratio of the mantle source regions. These gases experienced little fractionation due to degassing, as indicated by radiogenic 4He / 40Ar* values (where 4He and 40Ar* are produced by the decay of U+Th, and 40K isotopes, respectively) close to the mantle production/accumulation values. The C/N and C/3 He ratios of gases investigated here are within the range of values previously observed in oceanic basalts. They point to an elevated mantle C/N ratio (∼350-470, molar) higher than those of potential cosmochemical accretionary endmembers. For example, the BSE C/N and 36 Ar / N ratios (160-220 and 75 x 10-7, respectively) are higher than those of CM-CI chondrites but within the range of CV-CO groups. This similarity suggests that the Earth accreted from evolved planetary precursors depleted in volatile and moderately volatile elements. Hence the high C / N composition of the BSE may be an inherited feature rather than the result of terrestrial differentiation. The C / N and 36 Ar / N ratios of the surface (atmosphere plus crust) and of the mantle cannot be easily linked to any known chondritic composition. However, these compositions are consistent with early sequestration of carbon into the mantle (but not N and noble gases), permitting the establishment of clement temperatures at the surface of our planet.
© The Author(s), 2020. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License. The definitive version was published in Marty, B., Almayrac, M., Barry, P. H., Bekaert, D., V., Broadley, M. W., Byrne, D. J., Ballentine, C. J., & Caracausi, A. An evaluation of the C/N ratio of the mantle from natural CO2-rich gas analysis: Geochemical and cosmochemical implications. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 551, (2020): 116574, doi:10.1016/j.epsl.2020.116574.
Suggested CitationMarty, B., Almayrac, M., Barry, P. H., Bekaert, D., V., Broadley, M. W., Byrne, D. J., Ballentine, C. J., & Caracausi, A. (2020). An evaluation of the C/N ratio of the mantle from natural CO2-rich gas analysis: Geochemical and cosmochemical implications. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 551, 116574.
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