Novel analytical strategies for tracing the organic carbon cycle in marine and riverine particles
Rosengard, Sarah Z.
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Particulate organic carbon (POC) in the ocean and mobilized by rivers on land transfers ~0.1% of global primary productivity to the deep ocean sediments. This small fraction regulates the long-term carbon cycle by removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere for centuries to millennia. This thesis investigates mechanisms of POC transfer to the deep ocean by analyzing particles collected in transit through two globally significant carbon reservoirs: the Southern Ocean and the Amazon River Basin. These endeavors test the hypothesis that organic matter composition controls the recycling and transfer efficiency of POC to the deep ocean, and illustrate new applications for ramped pyrolysis/oxidation (RPO), a growing method of POC characterization by thermal stability. By coupling RPO to stable and radiocarbon isotope analyses of riverine POC, I quantify three thermally distinct soil organic carbon pools mobilized by the Amazon River, and evaluate the degradability and fate of these different pools during transport to the coastal Atlantic Ocean. More directly, RPO analyses of marine samples suggest that POC transfer in the water column is in fact selective. Observations of consistent biomolecular changes that accompany transport of phytoplankton-derived organic matter to depth across the Southern Ocean support the argument for preferential degradation of specific POC pools in the water column. Combining discussions of POC recycling and transfer across both marine and terrestrial systems offer new perspectives of thermal stability as a proxy for diagenetic stability and POC degradation state. The challenges of interpreting RPO data in these two environments set the stage for applying the technique to more controlled experiments that trace POC from source to long-term sink.
Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution February 2017
Suggested CitationThesis: Rosengard, Sarah Z., "Novel analytical strategies for tracing the organic carbon cycle in marine and riverine particles", 2017-02, DOI:10.1575/1912/8658, https://hdl.handle.net/1912/8658
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