Germanium as a Critical Zone proxy: δ74Ge and Ge/Si in waters from the Peruvian Andes and Amazon

Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Jotautas Jokubas Baronas1, Douglas E Hammond1, Mark A Torres1, A. Joshua West1, James McManus2 and Christopher Siebert3, (1)University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, United States, (2)University of Akron Main Campus, Akron, OH, United States, (3)GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel, Kiel, Germany
Germanium (Ge) is an element with a chemical behavior very similar to that of silicon (Si), albeit with some important differences. As a result, Ge/Si ratios in the environment can be used to investigate the Si cycle. For example, glacial-interglacial variations of the global marine Ge/Si ratio1 could be reflecting either changes in terrestrial weathering (river water Ge/Si has been proposed as a proxy for silicate weathering intensity1) or the degree of decoupling between Ge and Si during marine sediment diagenesis and burial2.

The investigation of Ge stable isotopes (δ74Ge) may help to better constrain the dynamics of the Ge cycle and aid in the interpretation of Ge/Si paleorecords. It also has the potential to provide useful information on the weathering environment, complementing other isotopic critical zone proxies, such as δ7Li, δ30Si, 87Sr/86Sr, etc..

We present the first δ74Ge measurements of river waters. We analyzed δ74Ge as well as Ge/Si ratios and several other major and trace element concentrations across a mountain-to-floodplain gradient reaching from the Peruvian Andes to the Amazon. In contrast with other areas and the global trend1, there is no correlation between Ge/Si and Si concentration among different tributaries, indicating either the heterogeneity of Ge sources or the dominance of different secondary weathering reactions within different tributary catchments. We are currently investigating if Ge/Si varies with seasonal changes in runoff, which may help constrain the factors controlling Ge/Si.

River water δ74Ge ranges from +3.4 to +6.5‰ among the different tributaries and is heavy relative to Bulk Silicate Earth (δ74Ge = +0.6‰3). Significant negative correlation of δ74Ge and Ge/Si suggests that both ratios may be fractionated during Ge uptake with secondary mineral precipitation. Similar (but weaker) correlation is observed for an extended dataset, including multiple U.S. rivers draining various lithologies.

Overall, our data show that δ74Ge and Ge/Si have the potential to provide useful information on continental weathering processes and further investigation of these proxies in the critical zone is warranted.

  1. Froelich et al. (1992). Paleocean., 7(6), 739–767
  2. Hammond et al. (2000). GCA, 64(14), 2453–2465
  3. Escoube et al. (2011). Geostand. Geoanal. Res., 36(2), 149–159