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Global silicate weathering flux overestimated because of sediment–water cation exchange

Authors:

Abstract

Rivers carry the dissolved and solid products of silicate mineral weathering, a process that removes C O 2 from the atmosphere and provides a key negative climate feedback over geological timescales. Here we show that, in some river systems, a reactive exchange pool on river suspended particulate matter, bonded weakly to mineral surfaces, increases the mobile cation flux by 50%. The chemistry of both river waters and the exchange pool demonstrates exchange equilibrium, confirmed by Sr isotopes. Global silicate weathering fluxes are calculated based on riverine dissolved sodium (Na ⁺ ) from silicate minerals. The large exchange pool supplies Na ⁺ of nonsilicate origin to the dissolved load, especially in catchments with widespread marine sediments, or where rocks have equilibrated with saline basement fluids. We quantify this by comparing the riverine sediment exchange pool and river water chemistry. In some basins, cation exchange could account for the majority of sodium in the river water, significantly reducing estimates of silicate weathering. At a global scale, we demonstrate that silicate weathering fluxes are overestimated by 12 to 28%. This overestimation is greatest in regions of high erosion and high sediment loads where the negative climate feedback has a maximum sensitivity to chemical weathering reactions. In the context of other recent findings that reduce the net C O 2 consumption through chemical weathering, the magnitude of the continental silicate weathering fluxes and its implications for solid Earth C O 2 degassing fluxes need to be further investigated.
EARTH, ATMOSPHERIC,
AND PLANETARY SCIENCES
Global silicate weathering flux overestimated because
of sediment–water cation exchange
Edward T. Tippera,1 , Emily I. Stevensona, Victoria Alcocka, Alasdair C. G. Knighta, J. Jotautas Baronasa,
Robert G. Hiltonb, Mike J. Bicklea, Christina S. Larkina, Linshu Fenga, Katy E. Relpha, and Genevieve Hughesa
aDepartment of Earth Sciences, University of Cambridge, Cambridge CB2 3EQ, United Kingdom; and bDepartment of Geography, Durham University,
Durham DH1 3LE, United Kingdom
Edited by Andrea Rinaldo, ´
Ecole Polytechnique F ´
ed ´
erale de Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland, and approved November 18, 2020 (received for review
August 4, 2020)
Rivers carry the dissolved and solid products of silicate mineral
weathering, a process that removes CO2from the atmosphere
and provides a key negative climate feedback over geological
timescales. Here we show that, in some river systems, a reac-
tive exchange pool on river suspended particulate matter, bonded
weakly to mineral surfaces, increases the mobile cation flux by
50%. The chemistry of both river waters and the exchange pool
demonstrates exchange equilibrium, confirmed by Sr isotopes.
Global silicate weathering fluxes are calculated based on riverine
dissolved sodium (Na+) from silicate minerals. The large exchange
pool supplies Na+of nonsilicate origin to the dissolved load,
especially in catchments with widespread marine sediments, or
where rocks have equilibrated with saline basement fluids. We
quantify this by comparing the riverine sediment exchange pool
and river water chemistry. In some basins, cation exchange could
account for the majority of sodium in the river water, significantly
reducing estimates of silicate weathering. At a global scale, we
demonstrate that silicate weathering fluxes are overestimated
by 12 to 28%. This overestimation is greatest in regions of high
erosion and high sediment loads where the negative climate
feedback has a maximum sensitivity to chemical weathering reac-
tions. In the context of other recent findings that reduce the net
CO2consumption through chemical weathering, the magnitude
of the continental silicate weathering fluxes and its implica-
tions for solid Earth CO2degassing fluxes need to be further
investigated.
cation exchange |global biogeochemical cycles |suspended
particulate matter |silicate weathering
For decades, silicate weathering has been postulated to pro-
vide the negative climate feedback on Earth that prevents
a runaway greenhouse climate like on Venus (1). Silicate min-
eral dissolution with carbonic acid converts atmospheric CO2
into carbonate, and releases essential nutrients to the terrestrial
and marine biosphere (2). There have been many attempts to
quantify the silicate weathering flux (3), mostly assuming that
riverine dissolved sodium (Na+) is derived only from silicate
minerals and rock salt. Here we show that there is a major
addition of nonsilicate Na+to the critical zone from ancient
seawater, weakly bonded to sedimentary rocks and supplied
to waters via the cation exchange process. The implication is
not only that the silicate weathering flux is overestimated at a
global scale, but that this nonsilicate Na+is most important in
regions previously thought to have the highest silicate weathering
fluxes (so called weathering-limited regions) and greatest climate
sensitivity.
Cation exchange is a rapid chemical reaction between cations
in the dissolved phase and mineral surfaces, particularly clays
(4). Major and trace cations such as calcium (Ca2+), magne-
sium (Mg2+), sodium (Na+), potassium (K+), and strontium
(Sr2+) form the cation exchange pool, which balances negative
charges on river-borne clay particle surfaces. This exchange takes
place on interlayer sites, between the tetrahedral and octahe-
dral layers, or on exposed surfaces (4). The importance of the
cation exchange pool is well recognized in soils and aquifers
(4, 5), has significant implications for enhanced weathering (6),
and has been proposed as an important mechanism for buffer-
ing the composition of river waters (7–9). However, data on the
riverine exchange pool are only available for two large river sys-
tems [Amazon and Ganges-Brahmaputra (10, 11)], despite its
significance in providing a source of elements that are imme-
diately bioavailable (12), and their potential for biasing the
quantification of silicate weathering (9).
It is increasingly recognized that rapidly reactive phases have
a strong influence on the chemistry of river waters (13, 14).
Cation exchange is a rapid reaction occurring continuously in
soils, as riverine freshwaters evolve downstream interacting with
particulate matter, and when they mix with seawater (15, 16).
Important examples of cation exchange are the “swapping” of
divalent cations Ca2+ and Mg2+ with Na+, in particular when
there is a major change in water composition such as when fluvial
clays reach the ocean,
Ca2+
clay + 2Na+
water 2Na+
clay + Ca2+
water.[1]
As a result, marine sediments have an exchange pool that is
dominated by Na+(17). Subsequently, these marine sediments
are uplifted and emplaced on the continents where Na+in
the exchange pool is released by cation exchange with Ca-
rich fresh waters (9). This has major implications for estimates
of silicate weathering fluxes and associated CO2consumption,
Significance
Large rivers transport water and sediment to floodplains and
oceans, supplying the nutrients that sustain life. They also
transport carbon, removed from the atmosphere during min-
eral dissolution reactions, which is thought to provide a key
negative climate feedback on long timescales. We demon-
strate that the (million-year) carbon flux associated with
mineral dissolution has been overestimated by up to 28%
because of a reactive pool of elements transported with river-
borne suspended sediment. This is most acute in regions of
high erosion, where silicate weathering is thought to be most
intense.
Author contributions: E.T.T. designed research; E.T.T., E.I.S., V.A., A.C.G.K., and J.J.B. per-
formed research; E.T.T., E.I.S., V.A., A.C.G.K., J.J.B., C.S.L., L.F., K.E.R., and G.H. analyzed
data; and E.T.T., E.I.S., V.A., A.C.G.K., J.J.B., R.G.H., M.J.B., C.S.L., and K.E.R. wrote the
paper.y
The authors declare no competing interest.y
This article is a PNAS Direct Submission.y
Published under the PNAS license.y
1To whom correspondence may be addressed. Email: ett20@cam.ac.uk.y
This article contains supporting information online at https://www.pnas.org/lookup/suppl/
doi:10.1073/pnas.2016430118/-/DCSupplemental.y
Published December 21, 2020.
PNAS 2021 Vol. 118 No. 1 e2016430118 https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2016430118 |1 of 6
Downloaded at Cambridge University on December 22, 2020
because they are calculated using the Na+content of rivers (3).
Cerling et al. (9) proposed that the Na+-rich exchange pool
exerts an important control on natural waters, based on charge
balance arguments from river water chemistry, but this hypothe-
sis has never been rigorously tested (18) by determining the flux
and composition of the exchange pool of rivers around the world.
In this contribution, we present a large dataset of fluvial sedi-
ment cation exchange capacity (CEC) and composition in several
of the world’s largest river basins. By comparing with the con-
comitant dissolved load chemistry, we demonstrate that 1) the
exchange pool in river sediments is in equilibrium with the river
water; 2) the fraction of mobile elements in the exchange pool
relative to the dissolved pool can be significant, particularly in
rapidly eroding, weathering-limited catchments; and 3) given
reasonable inferences on the composition of old marine sedi-
mentary rocks, modern-day silicate weathering has been overes-
timated and carbonate weathering has been underestimated. The
results reduce the estimated magnitude of the silicate weathering
flux, but increase the supply of base cations (e.g., Ca2+, which
can be a limiting nutrient) to the biosphere, suggesting a greater
role of organic carbon burial compared with silicate weathering
for the long-term atmospheric CO2sink.
Samples, Their Global Reach, and Outline Methods
Paired river water, suspended sediment, and bed or bank sedi-
ment were collected from several of the world’s largest rivers and
their tributaries between 2013 and 2019, including the Murray
and Darling in Australia, the Hong He (Red River), Irrawaddy,
Salween, and Mekong in Southeast Asia, major tributaries of
the Ganges (Karnali, Narayani, Koshi, Rapti, and Bagmati), and
the Mackenzie and Yukon Rivers in North America. In addi-
tion, a number of small streams from Svalbard and the Alps
were analyzed. The data are compared to the Amazon and the
Ganges-Brahmaputra systems (10, 11). This sample collection
is from a very wide range of catchments, with diverse lithologi-
cal, climatic, geomorphological, and weathering characteristics.
The Mackenzie is a shale-rich Arctic basin [where the major-
ity of the clay is marine in origin (19)], whereas the Irrawaddy
is a tropical basin, draining mixed sedimentary and magmatic
terranes (20). The Himalayan tributaries of the Ganges are
weathering limited, whereas the Murray–Darling system is trans-
port limited. The Mackenzie is almost free from anthropogenic
influence, whereas the Hong He and Mekong are extensively
dammed (21).
Exchangeable ions on the suspended particulate matter (SPM)
were determined either by reacting the sediment with calcite-
saturated cobalt(III) hexammine chloride (CoHex; SI Appendix)
(11) or by using ammonium chloride (NH4Cl). NH4Cl is known
to induce the dissolution of carbonate minerals if present (5),
but, after filtering the data for exchange equilibrium (dis-
cussed below), the CEC and chemical compositions are within
uncertainty for NH4Cl and CoHex extractions (SI Appendix,
Figs. S1–S3).
Results
Exchange Equilibrium between the Dissolved Load and Exchange
Pool. The measured exchange pool chemistry is in equilibrium
with the river water chemistry, determined by comparing mea-
surements of the exchange pool composition with modeled equi-
librium values (SI Appendix). When βCa(measured ), the fraction
of Ca to other major cations in the exchange pool, deviated
from the equilibrium value by more than the uncertainty of the
CoHex data (SI Appendix, Fig. S2), samples were defined as not
in equilibrium and excluded from calculations. The majority of
these samples are NH4Cl extractions of carbonate-rich samples,
and the offset is consistent with carbonate dissolution. Stron-
tium isotopes (87Sr/86 Sr) provide a robust tracer of the origin
of the exchange pool (22). The very wide range in 87Sr/86 Sr in
the samples analyzed affords a unique opportunity to assess the
chemical equilibrium between the exchange pool and coeval river
water. There is a striking 1:1 relationship between 87Sr/86 Sr in
the exchange pool of the SPM and 87Sr/86 Sr in the river water
(Fig. 1), with a tighter relationship for the CoHex extractions
(R2= 0.98) compared to the NH4Cl extractions (R2= 0.92).
NH4Cl extractions which deviate significantly from the 1:1 line
(Narayani and Trisuli Rivers in Nepal, the Peel in Canada, and
the Salween) were offset because of small amounts of carbonate
dissolution.
Chemistry of the Riverine Exchange Pool. The exchange pool chem-
istry is dominated by Ca2+ (βCa , the fraction of Ca in the
exchange pool, is typically >0.75, mean = 0.81). For the remain-
ing major cations, βMg = 0.16,βNa = 0.017, and βK= 0.018
(Fig 2A), on average. Although the river water and suspended
sediment exchange pool are in equilibrium (based on equilib-
rium calculations and Sr isotopes), they are distinct because of
exchange selectivity coefficients, such that Ca2+ and Mg2+ have
stronger affinities for the exchange pool compared to K+and
Na+(5). For example, the riverine exchange pool is enriched in
Ca2+ and depleted in Na+, K+, and Mg2+ relative to the river
water (Fig. 2). This has been observed previously in both the
Ganges-Brahmaputra and Amazon River basins as well as soil
pore waters (10, 11, 23).
Comparison with the Marine Exchange Pool. There is a clear differ-
ence between the composition of the exchange pool for riverine
sediments in equilibrium with river waters (present study), and
marine sediments. Modern marine sediments have an exchange
pool dominated by Na+(βNa = 0.6; refs. 15 and 17). When rivers
enter the oceans, the exchange pool of riverine particulate mat-
ter rapidly reacts with seawater, exchanging Ca2+ for Na+(Eq.
1and ref. 15). There are few measurements of unweathered
1:1 line
linear ts
through
simulated data
Nepal
Mackenzie
Mekong
Murray-Darling
Red
Salween
Yuk on
Irrawaddy
Fig. 1. Sr isotope ratio in the exchange pool as a function of Sr isotopes
in the river water. Open and closed (black outline) symbols used the NH4Cl
and CoHex methods, respectively. Gray symbols indicate samples where the
water and exchange pool are not in equilibrium. Uncertainties (500 parts
per million [ppm]) synthetically distributed about the mean of the data are
illustrated by the small points (Inset). Red lines are 100 examples of linear
fits through this synthetic CoHex data.
2 of 6 |PNAS
https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2016430118
Tipper et al.
Global silicate weathering flux overestimated because of sediment–water cation exchange
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EARTH, ATMOSPHERIC,
AND PLANETARY SCIENCES
Amaz
on (
Sayl
es & Man
gles
dor
f
197
9)
Mac
enzi
Damma Glacier
Gan
g
es-Brahmaputra (Lupker et al.
)
Irrawa
dd
y
Murra
y
Darli
ng
Mekong
Ne
p
a
l
Re
d
Salw
een
Svalbard
Y
u
k
o
n
Groundwater equilibrium (n=29782)
} 2S.D. } 2S.D.
AB
Fig. 2. Composition of the riverine exchange pool (A) and dissolved pool (B) as the percentage of the elements Ca2+, Mg2+, K+, and Na+. Amazon and
Ganges-Brahmaputra data are from refs. 10 and 11, respectively. Open and closed (black outline) symbols used the NH4Cl and CoHex methods, respectively.
Gray symbols indicate samples where water and exchange pool are not in equilibrium. Small red points are exchange pool compositions calculated in
equilibrium with groundwaters. Cluster of blue data points to indicate uncertainties are synthetic data distributed using the maximum uncertainties of the
data determined using a Monte Carlo simulation.
(pristine) exhumed marine rocks. Some have βNa in equilibrium
with seawater (24–26), but some have lower βNa of <0.18 (27,
28), suggesting a resetting by diagenetic or weathering processes.
There are many more measurements of continental groundwa-
ters, many of which are enriched in Na+, likely linked to halite
dissolution (nonsilicate Na+). We calculated the exchangeable
cation compositions in equilibrium with such groundwaters from
a compilation of almost 30,000 continental groundwaters (SI
Appendix, Fig. 2A, and ref. 29). The modal βNa was 0.80 (mean
of 0.56, interquartile range of 0.37 to 0.78; SI Appendix, Fig. S4),
demonstrating that the unweathered continental exchange pool
can retain a high βNa .
CEC. The CEC of SPM was calculated as the sum of exchange-
able Ca2+, Mg2+ , K+, and Na+in milliequivalent units per 100
g (meq/100 g) of dry sediment, following convention. The range
is comparable to that observed in other large river systems (<1
meq/100 g to 40 meq/100 g; SI Appendix, Fig. S5) (10, 11) and also
in soils (23). This range is lower than the CEC estimates for clay
minerals smectite (57 meq/100 g to 106 to meq/100 g) and kaoli-
nite (17 meq/100 g to 35 to meq/100 g) (30), since fluvial SPM
is always a mixture of multiple mineral phases. The sample from
the Damma Glacier in the Swiss Alps, draining exclusively gran-
ite, has the lowest CEC, whereas the rivers with high CEC drain
predominantly sedimentary terranes such as in the Mackenzie
Basin (31).
The CEC correlates with the aluminum/silicon (Al/Si) ratio
of the bulk sediment (11) (SI Appendix, Fig. S6; R2= 0.7, 0.8,
and 0.7, for the Mekong, Sun Koshi, and Koshi River datasets,
respectively). The Al/Si ratio is well documented to be a function
of the grain size (32), which is strongly related to the proportion
of clay mineral in the bulk sediment. Given that the fine frac-
tion of rivers is dominated by clay minerals (33), this covariation
provides a persuasive argument that the riverine CEC of SPM is
dominated by clays. In weathering-limited systems, the majority
of these clays are old marine sedimentary clays (19).
Implications
Increased Total Reactive Pool of Elements. Although the CEC is
conventionally quoted in units of meq/100 g, it is convenient to
express the CEC of riverine SPM in microequivalents per liter
of water (µeq/L), taking into account the concentration of sus-
pended sediment in the water column. Expressing CEC in these
units allows direct comparison with the sum of the solute cations
in the river water. The ratio of exchangeable Ca to solute Ca
(Fig. 3) ranges from close to zero in some river systems to >0.5.
Half of our SPM samples carry more than 5% of total Ca in
the exchange pool, including major river systems such as the
Salween, Mekong, Yukon, and rivers from Nepal.
Given that the exchange pool is in equilibrium with the river
water, this implies that the total cationic load from chemical
weathering (particularly of carbonates) has been underestimated
at a global scale. The principal control on the ratio of exchange-
able to dissolved cations is the concentration of sediment in
the water column (Fig. 3). While the CEC varies by a factor of
40, the SPM content varies by three orders of magnitude (from
0.01 g/L to 10 g/L) in our dataset, and, in extreme cases, such as
glacial lake outburst floods, SPM concentrations can exceed 100
g/L (34). This is of particular importance to weathering fluxes,
because regions of the world with high erosion rates (and thus
} Max 2S.D.
]
M
a
ckenzi
e
Damma Glacier
Irrawadd
y
Murra
y
Dar
l
in
g
Mekong
Ne
p
a
l
Re
d
S
al
wee
n
Svalbard
Y
uko
n
Fig. 3. Ratio of Ca2+in the exchange pool relative to the dissolved pool
(marginal plot shows frequency distribution showing 50th and 75th per-
centiles) versus the concentration of SPM in the river. Red dashed line is
the best fit through the data. The black dotted lines bracket the data cal-
culated using the 90th and 10th percentiles of Ca2+in the exchange pool
and the water to delineate upper and lower bounds. Open and closed sym-
bols used the NH4Cl and CoHex methods, respectively. Gray symbols indicate
water and exchange pool are not in equilibrium. Cluster of blue data points
to indicate uncertainties are synthetic data distributed using the maximum
uncertainties of the data determined using a Monte Carlo simulation.
Tipper et al.
Global silicate weathering flux overestimated because of sediment–water cation exchange
PNAS |3 of 6
https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2016430118
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typically elevated SPM contents) deliver the greatest weather-
ing fluxes, consume the largest amounts of atmospheric carbon
dioxide, and have the greatest sensitivity for climate feedbacks
(35–37). It is these rivers from weathering-limited environments
that have the greatest capacity for interaction between the river
sediment and water, because they have the highest SPM con-
tents. Several of the rivers here have a monsoonal hydrograph
(Mekong, Irrawaddy, Salween, Nepal, Red) where SPM con-
centrations are highest during the monsoon (38), while solute
concentrations are at their lowest (39). Therefore, maximum
CaExchange/CaWater coincides with the time of greatest solute flux.
Transport-limited river basins with low SPM may also be sig-
nificantly influenced by cation exchange processes in the soil
environment, where the exchange pool may control the soil
pore waters for many hundreds of years after the complete dis-
solution of primary mineral phases (22, 23). Cation exchange
has long been proposed as a mechanism for buffering river
water chemistry (7, 40), but a quantification of the compo-
nent derived from ancient sedimentary rocks has proved elusive
(9). The new data are used to quantify the supply of cations
from the ancient marine exchange pool to modern weather-
ing systems, as a function of the SPM content, the CEC, and
chemical makeup of the lithogenic exchange pool. Below, we
investigate the significance of the exchange pool for the silicate
weathering fluxes.
A Reduced Silicate Weathering Flux. The substantial riverine
exchange pool has important consequences for the calculation of
silicate weathering fluxes, particularly where rivers erode large
volumes of marine sedimentary rocks or continental rocks that
have equilibrated with saline basement waters. In general, areas
of greatest dissolved load flux are spatially correlated to easily
eroded sedimentary rocks, and tectonically active regions con-
tain uplifted sedimentary sequences characteristic of continental
margins (41). Since the modern riverine exchange pool is domi-
nated by Ca2+ (Fig. 2A), and marine sedimentary rocks have an
exchange pool dominated by Na+, the primary exchange reaction
during uplift and exhumation is 2Na+
clay Ca2+
water. The Na+-
dominated ancient marine exchange pool is released to river
waters with an equivalent charge of Ca2+ removed from the river
water (Eq. 1; the reverse of the reaction that occurs when riverine
SPM is discharged into the sea). This is of importance, since most
riverine estimates of modern silicate weathering fluxes are based
on the assumption that, after NaCl salt correction, all remaining
Na+(denoted Na) is derived exclusively from the dissolution
of silicate minerals. Atmospheric CO2is converted to bicar-
bonate in solution via silicate mineral dissolution in carbonic
acid (42). In contrast, the release of Na+from the exchange
pool does not consume atmospheric CO2. Since the silicate
weathering flux and attendant CO2consumption are calculated
directly from the Naflux (42), any reduction in Nato account
for ancient marine Na+supplied via cation exchange (Na+
ex )
is equivalent to the reduction in long-term carbon drawdown
via silicate weathering. Denoting Nasil as the silicate contri-
bution of Na+, corrected for both halite and cation exchange
inputs, we quantified the percentage reduction in silicate
weathering as
100 ·
(NaNasil)
Na=100 ·Na+
ex
(Na+
river Cl
river),[2]
where a maximum estimate of Na+
ex (µeq/L) is given by the
product of βNa in equilibrium with seawater and the CEC
(milliequivalents per kilogram) of the riverine SPM (grams
per liter),
Na+
ex =CEC ·SPM ·βNa .[3]
Since some marine sediments are likely influenced by diagen-
esis lowering βNa , in addition to some fraction of the riverine
CEC resulting from neoformed clays in equilibrium with soil
pore waters (19) (SI Appendix), we considered a generalized case
where the reduction in the silicate weathering flux was parame-
terized as a function of βNa between 0 and 0.6, the equilibrium
value with seawater (SI Appendix, Fig. S7).
Since both Naand CEC ·SPM are determined for our sam-
ple set (Fig. 4, with the distributions indicated by the marginal
plots), the reduction in the silicate weathering flux can be directly
assessed as a function of βNa . Assuming βNa = 0.6(Fig. 4), the
equilibrium value with seawater, many samples show a major
reduction in Na(percentage reduction indicated by the con-
tours) and thus the total silicate weathering flux. Some rivers
plot above the 100% contour, indicating the entirety of river-
ine Nais derived from the exchange pool and that βNa is
<0.6in these catchments. For the Yukon, Irrawaddy, Salween,
Mackenzie, Mekong, and Nepalese Rivers, the reduction in Na
is greater than 25% (basin averages). In contrast, rivers such
as the Amazon and the Murray–Darling, show less than a 10%
reduction in Na. For βNa = 0.6, the average reduction in Na
is 53% (mean of the entire dataset). Assuming a more conserva-
tive βNa = 0.2reduces Naby 32% once cation exchange is taken
into account.
The contrasting behavior between different river basins
reflects the interplay of the variables Na, CEC, and SPM. For
example, although Nepalese rivers have among the lowest CEC
(mean of 8.5 meq/100 g), they also have the lowest Navalues
(mean of 62 µmol/L) but highest suspended sediment concentra-
tions (3.8 g/L). In contrast, the Amazon dataset (10) has similar
Na(90 µmol/L), and much higher CEC (24 meq/100 g), but
very low SPM (0.08 g/L). As noted above, high erosion basins
10
20
30
40
50
60
70
80
90
100
40
0
40
40
50
50
50
0
0
0
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5
}
2S.D.
Fig. 4. CEC ·SPM vs. Na* contoured for the percentage reduction in sili-
cate weathering flux 100 ·(Na* Nasil )/Na* (0 = no change) calculated for
βNa =0.6. Open and closed symbols used the NH4Cl and CoHex methods,
respectively. Gray symbols indicate water and exchange pool are not in equi-
librium. Symbol legend is the same as for Fig. 2. Cluster of blue data points to
indicate uncertainties are synthetic data distributed using the mean uncer-
tainties of CEC ·SPM and Na* determined using a Monte Carlo simulation.
SI Appendix, Fig. S8 shows contours calculated for βNa =0.2.
4 of 6 |PNAS
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EARTH, ATMOSPHERIC,
AND PLANETARY SCIENCES
(weathering limited) are the most susceptible to a substantial
influence from the exchange pool because of their high sedi-
ment load (Fig. 3). While weathering-limited basins are thought
to be the most important for the silicate weathering feedback
(36, 37, 43), they also have the largest reduction in Na, even for
low βNa .
Extrapolation to Other Large Rivers. To estimate CEC for river
basins where data are not available, we exploited the lin-
ear dependency between CEC and the Al/Si of the SPM (SI
Appendix, Fig. S6). Uncertainty was determined using the covari-
ance matrix for Al/Si and CEC, which propagates the uncertainty
of Al/Si to the CEC using a Monte Carlo simulation. For sev-
eral of the world’s largest rivers, we used published values of
the Al/Si ratio (44–47) to determine the CEC and its associ-
ated uncertainty. Using Naand SPM concentration values (3),
we determined the maximum percentage reduction in silicate
weathering flux (100 ·(NaNasil)/Na; Eq. 3and Fig. 5).
The maximum discharge-weighted global average reduction in
Nawas determined as 28% (βNa = 0.6). A lower bound was esti-
mated using βNa = 0.2with a 12% reduction in Na(SI Appendix,
Fig. S9). However, the global reduction in Nais uneven, with
basins with high SPM load and/or low Nahaving the largest
reductions in Na, at up to 100% for some of the world’s
largest rivers.
Anthropogenic Influences. It is worth noting that, in recent
decades, many large river systems have suffered major reductions
in their sediment loads because of hydropower dam construction
(21). For example, the Red River samples are heavily affected
by reduced SPM contents because of dams. Firstly, for rivers
with a significant anthropogenic influence, such as the Red
and the Mekong Rivers, the reduction in Nadetermined here
underestimates the long-term reduction, because the suspended
particulate load is lower than in its natural state. Secondly, the
total flux of labile cations being delivered to the world’s flood-
plains and oceans is being reduced by sediment trapping in dams
because of the significant flux of elements carried in the exchange
pool. This is a temporary effect from a geological perspective,
but it can skew estimates of chemical weathering determined
downstream of major dams.
Conclusions
We measured the chemistry and magnitude of the exchange
pool in eight of the largest river systems on Earth. Strontium
isotopes and comparison of the dissolved and exchange pool
chemistry indicate chemical equilibrium between the dissolved
and exchange pools. In some river systems, the flux of mobile ele-
ments in the exchange pool bonded weakly to mineral surfaces on
SPM is comparable with that in the dissolved pool. This exchange
pool delivers an important flux of base cations to the world’s
floodplains and oceans, currently in a state of perturbation by the
rapid proliferation of dams. We demonstrate that, if at least part
of the riverine exchange pool was marine in origin, this Na+-rich
marine exchange pool contributes to the modern river chemistry
by exchanging with calcium. By comparing the exchange pool
chemistry to that of the river water, we demonstrate that the
global silicate weathering flux is 12 to 28% lower than previously
thought, and up to 100% lower in some river systems. The reduc-
tion in the calculated silicate weathering flux is most marked in
regions of the world with high erosion and high sediment loads,
where chemical weathering reactions that control the negative
climate feedback are most sensitive. This finding, that the mag-
nitude of the silicate weathering flux needs to be reevaluated,
adds to a series of recent studies (2, 48) that emphasize CO2
release during chemical weathering, and raise questions for the
canonical view of the silicate weathering feedback.
Materials and Methods
Materials and methods are summarized here; further details are provided
in SI Appendix. Water and suspended sediment samples were mostly col-
lected midchannel from boats, or, for smaller rivers, from bridges. Some
recent bank deposits, from just above the water line, were collected and
analyzed. Sediment was reacted with calcite-saturated CoHex (SI Appendix)
(11), where the Co(NH3)3+
6ion displaces the exchangeable cations, but is
buffered to calcite saturation, preventing the dissolution of calcite present
80°S
70°S
60°S
50°S
40°S
30°S
20°S
10°S
10°N
20°N
30°N
40°N
50°N
60°N
70°N
80°N
30°W 10°W 10°E 30°E 50°E 70°E 90°E 110°E 130°E 150°E 170°E 170°W 150°W 130°W 110°W 90°W 70°W 50°W 30°W
80°S
70°S
60°S
50°S
40°S
30°S
20°S
10°S
10°N
20°N
30°N
40°N
50°N
60°N
70°N
80°N
30°W 10°W 10°E 30°E 50°E 70°E 90°E 110°E 130°E 150°E 170°E 170°W 150°W 130°W 110°W 90°W 70°W 50°W 30°W
Amazon (10%)
Brahmaputra (24%)
Congo (8%)
Danube (NA%)
Don (0%)
Fraser (35%)
Ganges (26%)
Indus (49%)
Irrawaddy (53%)
Karnali (100%) Koshi (87%)
Lena (NA%)
Loire (4%)
Murray − Darling (1%)
Mackenzie (71%)
Mekong (34%)
Mississippi (43%)
Narayani (100%)
Niger (94%)
Nile (12%)
Ob (8%)
Orinoco (21%)
Rapti (48%)
Hong (Red River) (6%)
Salween (100%)
Seine (NA%)
St Lawrence (4%)
Wisla (NA%)
Volga (NA%)
Xun Jiang (85%)
Yangtze (86%)
Huang He (100%)
Yenisey (NA%)
Yukon (100%)
25
50
75
100
100
Na
*
Na
sil
Na
*
Na
0.6
Fig. 5. Global map of large river basins colored for percentage reduction in the silicate weathering flux (100 ·(Na* Nasil )/Na*) calculated for βNa =0.6
(SI Appendix, Fig. S8 is equivalent calculated for βNa =0.2). Basins in gray have chloride in excess of sodium (Na* <0).
Tipper et al.
Global silicate weathering flux overestimated because of sediment–water cation exchange
PNAS |5 of 6
https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2016430118
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in some of the samples. Additional samples were reacted with ammonium
chloride (NH4Cl) where the NH+
4ion displaces exchangeable cations. Cation
concentrations were determined by inductively coupled plasma optical
emission spectroscopy or ion chromatography, and anions were determined
by IC. The exchange pool extractions were measured either by ICP-OES
or spectrometric ultraviolet absorbance, using matrix matched calibration
lines. After filtering the data for exchange equilibrium, the CEC and chem-
ical compositions are within uncertainty for NH4Cl and CoHex extractions
(SI Appendix, Figs S1–S3). Radiogenic strontium isotopic compositions were
measured on a Neptune Plus multicollector–ICP–mass spectrometer (Thermo
Scientific, University of Cambridge).
Data Availability. All study data are included in the article and SI Appendix.
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS. This work was funded by National Environmen-
tal Research Council Grants NE/K000705/1, NE/M001865/1, NE/N007441/1,
and NE/P011659/1 to E.T.T., and NERC Arctic Bursary Award & European
Research Council Starting Grant ROC-CO2 678779 to R.G.H. Mackenzie River
samples were collected under research licenses 15288 and 16106. Many peo-
ple assisted in the collection of samples in the field. C. Parish built our
field equipment. H. Chapman conducted some of the Sr isotope chemistry.
S. Souanef-Ureta conducted some of the NH4Cl extractions. M.-L. Bagard
ensured the flawless running of the Cambridge Plasma Labs. The manuscript
was improved by two thoughtful anonymous reviewers.
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6 of 6 |PNAS
https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2016430118
Tipper et al.
Global silicate weathering flux overestimated because of sediment–water cation exchange
Downloaded at Cambridge University on December 22, 2020
... Ion exchange and adsorption/desorption are very common hydrogeochemical processes in the water-rock system. Cations such as Ca 2+ , Na + , K + , Sr 2+ and B balance negative charges on mineral surfaces in the aqueous phase, particularly on clay minerals (Appelo and Postma, 2005;Tipper et al., 2021;Huang et al., 2022). Chloro-alkaline indices and the bivariate diagram of Na-Cl versus (Ca + Mg)-(HCO 3 + SO 4 ) were used to reveal the possibility of cation exchange (Wu et al., 2015;Li et al. 2018;He and Li, 2020). ...
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In a complex water–rock system that contains clay (or/and organic matter) and carbonates, multiple factors can affect specific isotopic compositions or ratios of fluids, such as the adsorption–desorption, ion exchange, and dissolution-precipitation of the related minerals. In this situation, the Rayleigh model is inappropriate for simulating the pore fluid isotopic data, and the ultimate mechanism causing isotopic fractionation has not yet been resolved. Besides, the endmembers (including concentration and isotopic composition/ratio) related to geochemical processes have not been well identified. Shale is enriched in clay and organic matter and usually contains carbonates. Comprehensive adsorption–desorption and ion exchange occurs within a short time. Accordingly, the flowback water following hydraulic fracturing of shale gas reservoirs is a unique material for studying the mechanism affecting the specific isotopic composition/ratio (lithium, boron, and strontium). This study aims to investigate the mechanism of changes in the isotopic compositions/ratios following the hydraulic fracturing of a shale gas reservoir by obtaining high-quality flowback water, determining all potential endmembers (concentration and isotopic composition/ratio for water-soluble fraction, exchangeable fraction, and carbonate minerals), and conducting laboratory water–rock interactions to confirm the trends observed in the field. The results indicated that desorption-adsorption or/and ion change was a critical factor controlling the concentration and isotopic compositions (δ7Li and δ11B) and radiogenic 87Sr/86Sr ratios in this complex water–rock system. The contribution from the dissolution of carbonates to Li, B, and Sr in the flowback water beyond the mixing between fracturing water and formation water was estimated to be less than 16%. Desorption of B from shale would result in higher B/Cl ratios and changes in δ11B values of fluids rely on the exchangeable B in shale (δ11B values decreased in this study). Another new finding demonstrates that the increased 87Sr/86Sr values of flowback water beyond mixing was inferred from the re-equilibrium between the dissolved Sr and exchangeable Sr, rather than dissolution of silicates with a high 87Sr/86Sr value, which suggests a more complex process than previously expected. While clay minerals or/and organic matter are commonly distributed in groundwater systems, the findings are also beneficial for tracing water–rock interactions and the sources/sinks of a specific solute in a groundwater system that may be impacted by adsorption-desorption or/and ion exchange.
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This study examines the Ca isotope (δ44/40Ca) geochemistry of Icelandic rivers with the overall aims of improving the δ44/40Ca tracer, constraining solute sources, and addressing the hypothesis that basalt weathering disproportionately regulates Earth’s long-term climate. We report Ca isotope and elemental data for mainstem rivers, tributary streams, thermal and non-thermal springs, basalt, calcite, soil, vegetation, and sediment collected from the Skagafjörður region in North Iceland. Waters and calcite were further analyzed for their carbon isotope (δ¹³C) composition, and we conducted experiments to characterize δ44/40Ca values of riverine colloids, the clay-size fraction (<2 µm) of soil, and exchangeable leachates obtained from soil and bedload sediment. The dataset includes analyses of travertine and coexisting water samples collected from a CO2-rich spring (Hvanná river) in South Iceland. Samples show a ∼2‰ range, with groundwater, the ultrafiltered fraction of river water, and hydrothermal calcite producing among the highest δ44/40Ca values and travertine, soil exchangeable Ca, and vegetation the lowest. Riverine δ44/40Ca values are on average ∼0.20‰ higher than those for basalt, which shows minimal isotopic variability. Mainstem glacial-fed rivers entering the Skagafjörður valley from the soil- and vegetation-free highlands have higher δ44/40Ca values than direct-runoff tributaries draining catchments to the north where pedogenesis is more pervasive. Riverine δ44/40Ca values correlate with Sr/Ca and Na/Ca ratios, as well as the saturation index of calcite (SIcal). Riverine δ¹³C values increase from ∼-8‰ (atmospheric) to ∼-3‰ (calcite) as SIcal values increase from highly-undersaturated to near-equilibrium. One watershed (Svartá river) shows unique trends, where riverine δ44/40Ca values and Sr/Ca ratios do not correlate, and soil exchangeable leachates produced anomalously high amounts of Ca. Clay-size fractions isolated from three horizons composing a brown andosol show slightly lower δ44/40Ca values than bulk basalt, but the values overlap with those for primary minerals. Colloids appear to have lower δ44/40Ca values than truly dissolved Ca. The proxy could be developed as a tracer for colloidal contributions to riverine dissolved loads, especially in soil-mantled catchments where the inputs appear most pronounced. Groundwater δ44/40Ca values correlate with pH, temperature, distance from the coast, and Sr/Ca ratios, all consistent with fractionation control yielding varying degrees of geochemical evolution. The combined riverine patterns largely reflect three-component mixing between basalt weathering, calcite weathering, and hydrothermal water inputs. Subsurface Ca isotope fractionation indirectly impacts riverine δ44/40Ca values by elevating the δ44/40Ca values of groundwater and hydrothermal calcite. This study highlights the significance of hydrothermal water inputs of Ca and HCO3 to Icelandic rivers, which have been previously underappreciated. Mixing calculations suggest that a maximum of ∼20% of the Ca in mainstem rivers derives from surficial basalt weathering. Small tributaries draining the flanks of the valley show the clearest signals of basalt weathering by atmospheric CO2, but these waters have much lower solute concentrations than those employed in previous attempts to estimate basalt weathering rates and parameterize the climate sensitivity of the basalt weathering feedback.
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The denudation of rocks in mountain belts exposes a range of fresh minerals to the surface of the Earth that are chemically weathered by acidic and oxygenated fluids. The impact of the resulting coupling between denudation and weathering rates fundamentally depends on the types of minerals that are weathering. Whereas silicate weathering sequesters CO2, the combination of sulfide oxidation and carbonate dissolution emits CO2 to the atmosphere. Here, we combine the concentrations of dissolved major elements in stream waters with 10Be basin-wide denudation rates from 35 small catchments in eastern Tibet to elucidate the importance of lithology in modulating the relationships between denudation rate, chemical weathering pathways, and CO2 consumption or release. Our catchments span 3 orders of magnitude in denudation rate in low-grade flysch, high-grade metapelites, and granitoid rocks. For each stream, we estimate the concentrations of solutes sourced from silicate weathering, carbonate dissolution, and sulfide oxidation using a mixing model. We find that for all lithologies, cation concentrations from silicate weathering are largely independent of denudation rate, but solute concentrations from carbonates and, where present, sulfides increase with increasing denudation rate. With increasing denudation rates, weathering may therefore shift from consuming to releasing CO2 in both (meta)sedimentary and granitoid lithologies. For a given denudation rate, we report dissolved solid concentrations and inferred weathering fluxes in catchments underlain by (meta)sedimentary rock that are 2–10 times higher compared to catchments containing granitoid lithologies, even though climatic and topographic parameters do not vary systematically between these catchments. Thus, varying proportions of exposed (meta)sedimentary and igneous rocks during orogenesis could lead to changes in the sequestration and release of CO2 that are independent of denudation rate.
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We investigate if the commonly neglected riverine detrital carbonate fluxes might reconciliate several chemical mass balances of the global ocean. Particulate inorganic carbon (PIC) concentrations in riverine suspended sediments, that is, carbon contained by these detrital carbonate minerals, were quantified at the basin and global scale. Our approach is based on globally representative data sets of riverine suspended sediment composition, catchment properties, and a two‐step regression procedure. The present‐day global riverine PIC flux is estimated at 3.1 ± 0.3 Tmol C/y (13% of total inorganic carbon export and 4% of total carbon export) with a flux‐weighted mean concentration of 0.26 ± 0.03 wt%. The flux prior to damming was 4.1 ± 0.5 Tmol C/y. PIC fluxes are concentrated in limestone‐rich, rather dry and mountainous catchments of large rivers near Arabia, South East Asia, and Europe with 2.2 Tmol C/y (67.6%) discharged between 15°N and 45°N. Greenlandic and Antarctic meltwater discharge and ice‐rafting additionally contribute 0.8 ± 0.3 Tmol C/y. This amount of detrital carbonate minerals annually discharged into the ocean implies a significant contribution of calcium (∼4.75 Tmol Ca/y) and alkalinity fluxes (∼10 Tmol (eq)/y) to marine mass balances and moderate inputs of strontium (∼5 Gmol Sr/y) based on undisturbed riverine and cryospheric inputs and a dolomite/calcite ratio of 0.1. Magnesium fluxes (∼0.25 Tmol Mg/y), mostly hosted by less‐soluble dolomite, are rather negligible. These unaccounted fluxes help in elucidating respective marine mass balances and potentially alter conclusions based on these budgets.
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The transport and deposition of mud in rivers are key processes in fluvial geomorphology and biogeochemical cycles. Recent work indicates that flocculation might regulate fluvial mud transport by increasing mud settling velocities, but we lack a calibrated mechanistic model for flocculation in freshwater rivers. Here, we developed and calibrated a semi‐empirical model for floc diameter and settling velocity in rivers. We compiled a global data set of river suspended sediment concentration‐depth profiles and inverted them for in situ settling velocity using the Rouse‐Vanoni equation. On average, clay and silt (diameters <39 μm) are flocculated with settling velocity of 1.8 mm s⁻¹ and floc diameter of 130 μm. Among model variables, Kolmogorov microscale has the strongest positive correlation with floc diameter, supporting the idea that turbulent shear limits floc size. Sediment Al/Si (a mineralogy proxy) has the strongest negative correlation with floc diameter and settling velocity, indicating the importance of clay abundance and composition for flocculation. Floc settling velocity increases with greater mud and organic matter concentrations, consistent with flocculation driven by particle collisions and binding by organic matter which is often concentrated in mud. Relative charge density (a salinity proxy) correlates with smaller floc settling velocities, a finding that might reflect the primary particle size distribution and physical hosting of organic matter. The calibrated model explains river floc settling velocity data within a factor of about two. Results highlight that flocculation can impact the fate of mud and particulate organic carbon, holding implications for global biogeochemical cycles.
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Lithium (Li) isotopes are a tracer of silicate weathering processes, but how they react to different components of organic and plant-assisted weathering is poorly known. To examine the effect of organic acids compared to a strong mineral acid (HCl) on Li isotope behaviour, basalt-water weathering experiments were amended with different organic acids (glycine, malic acid, cinnamic acid, and humic acid; 0.01M). The presence of the different acids significantly affects the behaviour of dissolved elemental concentrations (such as Mg, Fe, and Al), both by increasing primary rock dissolution and hindering rates of secondary mineral formation. However, the behaviour of Li isotopes appears unaffected, with all experiments following an almost identical trend of δ⁷Li versus Li/Na. This observation was consistent with a single fractionation factor during the uptake of Li into secondary minerals, yet both calculated saturation states and leaching experiments on the reacted solids indicated that Li was removed into multiple phases, suggesting that the bulk combined fractionation factor barely varied. Of the Li lost from solution in the organic experiments, we estimated that on average 76% went into neoformed clays, 16% into oxides/oxyhydroxides, and 10% into the exchangeable fraction. The fractionations observed for each phase were Δ⁷Liexch-soln = -12.7 ± 1.7‰, Δ⁷Liox-soln = -26.7 ± 0.4‰, and Δ⁷Liclay-soln = -21.6 ± 3.3‰. These fractionations were identical, within error, to those from experiments with organic-free water, implying that the Li isotope behaviour was unaffected by the presence of organic acids in the weathering reaction. This result has interesting consequences for the interpretation of Li isotopes in terms of plant-assisted weathering and the geological record of terrestrialisation. In particular, it appears to imply that seawater Li isotope records can be expected to resolve the integrated effect of plants on weathering fluxes or weathering congruence, rather than being sensitive to specific organic-mediated weathering mechanisms.
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The radiogenic neodymium isotope ratio¹⁴³Nd/¹⁴⁴Nd (expressed as εNd) has been applied to examine seawater elemental budgets, sedimentary provenance, oceanic water mass source and circulation, large scale geochemical cycling, and continental crust growth rates. These applications are underpinned by the assumption that during sedimentary processing the parent/daughter (samarium/neodymium) ratio is conservative during low temperature fluid related processes. In this study, we report εNd data from two streams draining sedimentary formations in the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard. The εNd value of the dissolved load is offset from stream suspended sediment samples by up to 5.5 epsilon units. We demonstrate that dissolved load εNd values are controlled by the dissolution of labile phases present in the catchment rocks which are isotopically distinct from the silicate residue and account for up to 12 % Nd in the bulk sediment. This study highlights; 1) the potential for incongruent release of Nd isotopes to seawater from rocks and sediments, with implications for the isotopic composition of seawater, and 2) the large scale decoupling between a rapidly exchanging labile reservoir and a silicate-bound reservoir during sediment recycling.
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Continental-scale chemical weathering budgets are commonly assessed based on the flux of dissolved elements carried by large rivers to the oceans. However, the interaction between sediments and seawater in estuaries can lead to additional cation exchange fluxes that have been very poorly constrained so far. We constrained the magnitude of cation exchange fluxes from the Ganga–Brahmaputra river system based on cation exchange capacity (CEC) measurements of riverine sediments. CEC values of sediments are variable throughout the river water column as a result of hydrological sorting of minerals with depth that control grain sizes and surface area. The average CEC of the integrated sediment load of the Ganga–Brahmaputra is estimated ca. 6.5 meq 100 g−1. The cationic charge of sediments in the river is dominated by bivalent ions Ca2+ (76 %) and Mg2+ (16 %) followed by monovalent K+ (6 %) and Na+ (2 %), and the relative proportion of these ions is constant among all samples and both rivers. Assuming a total exchange of exchangeable Ca2+ for marine Na+ yields a maximal additional Ca2+ flux of 28 × 109 mol yr−1 of calcium to the ocean, which represents an increase of ca. 6 % of the actual river dissolved Ca2+ flux. In the more likely event that only a fraction of the adsorbed riverine Ca2+ is exchanged, not only for marine Na+ but also Mg2+ and K+, estuarine cation exchange for the Ganga–Brahmaputra is responsible for an additional Ca2+ flux of 23 × 109 mol yr−1, while ca. 27 × 109 mol yr−1 of Na+, 8 × 109 mol yr−1 of Mg2+ and 4 × 109 mol yr−1 of K+ are re-absorbed in the estuaries. This represents an additional riverine Ca2+ flux to the ocean of 5 % compared to the measured dissolved flux. About 15 % of the dissolved Na+ flux, 8 % of the dissolved K+ flux and 4 % of the Mg2+ are reabsorbed by the sediments in the estuaries. The impact of estuarine sediment–seawater cation exchange appears to be limited when evaluated in the context of the long-term carbon cycle and its main effect is the sequestration of a significant fraction of the riverine Na flux to the oceans. The limited exchange fluxes of the Ganga–Brahmaputra relate to the lower than average CEC of its sediment load that do not counterbalance the high sediment flux to the oceans. This can be attributed to the nature of Himalayan river sediment such as low proportion of clays and organic matter.
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Continental scale chemical weathering budgets are commonly assessed based on the flux of dissolved elements carried by large rivers to the oceans. However the interaction between sediments and seawater in estuaries can lead to additional cation exchange fluxes that have been very poorly constrained so far. We constrained the magnitude of cation exchange fluxes from the Ganges-Brahmaputra River system based on cation exchange capacity (CEC) measurements of riverine sediments. CEC values of sediments are variable throughout the water column but average at ca. 6.5 meq/100 g for the Ganges-Brahmaputra. The cationic charge of sediments in the river is dominated by bivalent ions Ca2+ (76 %) and Mg2+ (16 %) followed by monovalent K+ (6 %) and Na+ (2 %) and the relative proportion of these ions is constant among all samples and rivers. Assuming a total exchange of exchangeable Ca2+ for marine Na+ yields an maximal additional Ca2+ flux of 28 x 109 mol/yr of calcium to the ocean, which represents an increase of ca. 6 % of the actual dissolved Ca2+ flux. In the more likely event that only a fraction of the adsorbed riverine Ca2+ is exchanged, not only for marine Na+ but also Mg2+ and K+, estuarine cation exchange for the Ganga-Brahmaputra is responsible for an additional Ca2+ flux of 23 x 109 mol/yr, while ca. 27 x 109 mol/yr of Na+, 8 x 109 mol/yr of Mg2+ and 4 x 109 mol/yr of K+ are re-absorbed in the estuaries. This represents an additional riverine Ca2+ flux to the ocean of 5 % compared to the measured dissolved flux. About 15 % of the dissolved Na+ flux, 8 % of the dissolved K+ flux and 4 % of the Mg2+ are reabsorbed by the sediments in the estuaries. The impact of estuarine sediment-seawater cation exchange is therefore limited if evaluated in the context of the long-term carbon cycle and its main effect is the sequestration of a significant fraction of the riverine Na flux to the oceans.
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Mountain building results in high erosion rates and the interaction of rocks with the atmosphere, water and life. Carbon transfers that result from increased erosion could control the evolution of Earth’s long-term climate. For decades, attention has focused on the hypothesized role of mountain building in drawing down atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) via silicate weathering. However, it is now recognized that mountain building and erosion affect the carbon cycle in other important ways. For example, erosion mobilizes organic carbon (OC) from terrestrial vegetation, transferring it to rivers and sediments, and thereby acting to draw down atmospheric CO2 in tandem with silicate weathering. Meanwhile, exhumation of sedimentary rocks can release CO2 through the oxidation of rock OC and sulfide minerals. In this Review, we examine the mechanisms of carbon exchange between rocks and the atmosphere, and discuss the balance of CO2 sources and sinks. It is demonstrated that OC burial and oxidative weathering, not widely considered in most models, control the net CO2 budget associated with erosion. Lithology strongly influences the impact of mountain building on the global carbon cycle, with an orogeny dominated by sedimentary rocks, and thus abundant rock OC and sulfides, tending towards being a CO2 source.
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Oxidation of particulate organic carbon (POC) during fluvial transit releases CO2 to the atmosphere and can influence global climate. Field data show large POC oxidation fluxes in lowland rivers; however, it is unclear if POC losses occur predominantly during in-river transport, where POC is in continual motion within an aerated environment, or during transient storage in floodplains, which may be anoxic. Determination of the locus of POC oxidation in lowland rivers is needed to develop process-based models to predict POC losses, constrain carbon budgets, and unravel links between climate and erosion. However, sediment exchange between rivers and floodplains makes differentiating POC oxidation during in-river transport from oxidation during floodplain storage difficult. Here, we isolated in-river POC oxidation using flume experiments transporting petrogenic and biospheric POC without floodplain storage. Our experiments showed solid phase POC losses of 0%–10% over ~103 km of fluvial transport, compared to ~7% to >50% losses observed in rivers over similar distances. The production of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) and dissolved rhenium (a proxy for petrogenic POC oxidation) was consistent with small POC losses, and replicate experiments in static water tanks gave similar results. Our results show that fluvial sediment transport, particle abrasion, and turbulent mixing have a minimal role on POC oxidation, and they suggest that POC losses may accrue primarily in floodplain storage.
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Himalayan rivers are frequently hit by catastrophic floods that are caused by the failure of glacial lake and landslide dams; however, the dynamics and long-term impacts of such floods remain poorly understood. We present a comprehensive set of observations that capture the July 2016 glacial lake outburst flood (GLOF) in the Bhotekoshi/Sunkoshi River of Nepal. Seismic records of the flood provide new insights into GLOF mechanics and their ability to mobilize large boulders that otherwise prevent channel erosion. Because of this boulder mobilization, GLOF impacts far exceed those of the annual summer monsoon, and GLOFs may dominate fluvial erosion and channel-hillslope coupling many tens of kilometers downstream of glaciated areas. Long-term valley evolution in these regions may therefore be driven by GLOF frequency and magnitude, rather than by precipitation.
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As the world’s third largest delta and one of the world's most important biodiversity hotspots, the Mekong Delta provides both ecological and food security for its inhabitants. Nevertheless, the delta has been threatened by climate change and human activities, particularly the proliferation of hydropower development across the Mekong Basin since the 1990s. However, compared to the well-studied Holocene Mekong Delta, our understanding of the recent 50-year evolution of the Mekong Delta is not sufficient to address these threats. In this study, we used 43-year Landsat images from 1973 to 2015 to investigate the entirety of the Mekong Delta’s shoreline, land area and geomorphological changes. We compiled a new and comprehensive GIS database of the dams and irrigations of the Mekong Basin. The goal was to improve our knowledge of the recent evolution of the Mekong Delta and to link the potential impacts of dams and other factors. Our results show that the Mekong Delta is experiencing a significant decrease in the shoreline progradation rate. Currently, 66% of the entire delta shoreline is under erosion. The erosion segments are mainly located on the eastern side of the Ca Mau Peninsula and northwestern side of the delta in the Gulf of Thailand (GoT). Most parts of the shorelines in the estuarine area are still growing, although river sediment continues to decrease. Geomorphological asymmetries, discontinuous shoreline shifts, and sandy beach-ridge sets can be observed in multitemporal images. The entire Mekong Delta experienced a shift from growing to shrinking around 2005 with the gradual increase of the total accumulated installed capacity of the dams over the entire river basin. In the near future, the realization of planned dams, extension of irrigation, groundwater withdrawal, uncontrolled riverbed mining, delta subsidence, sea level rise, and other factors will accelerate the ongoing delta erosion.
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Polyether amine (PA) has recently been widely applied in water-based drilling fluid to improve shale stability. To study whether PA intercalation and the resulting increase of montmorillonite (Mt) d001-value have a negative effect on shale stability, a PA adsorption test on shale, a shale composites X-ray diffraction (XRD) test and a one dimensional swelling test of shale immersed in solution were conducted. PA can absorb on shale by exchanging Na⁺ in shale, resulting in a d001-value increase of sodium montmorillonite (Na-Mt) in shale and large vertical displacements, causing lots of micro cracks to develop in the shale with the shale matrix dispersed. For shale immersed in solution with KCl and PA mixed, PA intercalation was reduced and even prevented because K⁺ can exchange Na⁺ in the shale first. With the cation hydration reduced by K⁺ adsorption and the clay layer hydration decreased by PA adsorption on clay layer, vertical displacement was greatly reduced and stability was greatly enhanced for the shale immersed in solution with KCl and PA mixed. As a result, during drilling in shale containing Na-Mt, PA can cause shale instability. Using PA and KCl together can achieve better shale stability compared to using KCl only.
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In this study, the sources and the cycling of Ba have been evaluated in the Ganga (Hooghly) River estuary using the composition of the suspended sediments and the water samples collected during six seasons of contrasting water discharge over two years (2012 and 2013). In addition, the data on the samples of groundwater from areas adjacent to the estuary, and the industrial effluent water and urban wastewater draining into the estuary are presented. Selective extraction experiments were also performed on the suspended particulate matter of two seasons to assess the distribution of exchangeable concentrations of major ions and Ba. In the mixing zone, the variations of dissolved Ba concentrations show mid-salinity maxima and are similar to the pattern of variation of the particulate Mg/Al and Mg/Fe, suggesting that the production of dissolved Ba is linked to the adsorption of major ions on to the clay minerals and Fe-Mn oxyhydroxides in the particulate matter. The inference of coupled adsorption-desorption processes is supported by the observations that the particulate Ba/Mg and Ba/K ratios exhibit significant to strong negative correlations with the concentrations of Al, Fe and Mn. The observations of mid-salinity maxima for the concentrations of exchangeable Mg and K, and of the exchangeable Ba concentrations that decrease with salinity provide strong evidence that the solute-particle interactions is the major driver in regulating the dissolved Ba distributions in the estuary. The estimates of the quantity of desorbed Ba based on three different approaches suggest that desorption is sufficient to account for the calculated excess Ba (Baxs) concentrations. The contribution of Ba to the dissolved load via dissolution of the particulate carbonate phases is minor, up to 3% of the maximum Baxs concentrations. The estimates of anthropogenic contributions are insignificant, and account for ⩽2% of maximum Baxs in the estuary. Groundwater contributions are less significant and account for up to 5% of the annual Ba flux from the Hooghly estuary.
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This study illustrates the petrographic, heavy-mineral, geochemical and geochronological signatures of sand transported by various branches of the Irrawaddy (Ayeyarwadi) River, one of the first in the world for sediment flux. Intrasample and intersample compositional variability, weathering and hydraulic-sorting controls are also discussed. Feldspatho-quartzose sand in Irrawaddy headwaters is largely derived first-cycle from mid-crustal metamorphic and plutonic rocks of the Mogok Belt and Lohit complex, whereas feldspatho-litho-quartzose Chindwin sand is largely recycled from supracrustal, sedimentary and very low-grade metasedimentary units. Additional mafic to ultramafic detritus is derived from ophiolites and blueschists exposed from the Indo-Burman Ranges to the Jade Mines and Myitkyina belts, linked northward to the Yarlung-Tsangpo suture of the Himalaya. Volcanic detritus derived from the Popa-Wuntho arc or recycled from forearc-basin strata also occurs. Decreasing concentration of most chemical elements along the Irrawaddy reflects progressive addition of detritus recycled from sedimentary rocks, most evident downstream of the Chindwin confluence. REE patterns with LREE enrichment and negative Eu anomaly reflect the occurrence of allanite, largely derived from granitoid rocks in the Mali catchment. Chemical indices indicate moderate weathering in the monsoon-dominated climate of Myanmar. Young UPb ages (15–170 Ma) represent 85% of detrital zircons in Irrawaddy headwater branches, reflecting long-lasting subduction-related magmatism along a ring of fire connecting with the southern and central Lhasa batholiths in Tibet and polyphase metamorphism in the Mogok belt. Chindwin sand contains larger amounts of finer-grained, recycled pre-Mesozoic zircons, also yielding early Mesoproterozoic to Archean ages.