Authigenic Uranium in Eastern Equatorial Pacific Sediments

Friday, 19 December 2014
Franco Marcantonio1, Mitchell W Lyle1, Matthew Robert Loveley2 and Rami Ibrahim2, (1)Texas A&M University, College Station, TX, United States, (2)Texas A & M University, College Station, TX, United States
Authigenic U concentrations have been used as an indicator of redox state in marine sediments. Soluble U(VI) in porewaters is reduced to insoluble U(IV) under suboxic conditions setting up a diffusion gradient through which U in bottom waters is supplied to reducing sediments. Researchers have used sedimentary redox enrichment of U as a tool to identify past redox changes, which may be caused by changes in organic carbon rain rates and/or bottom water oxygen levels. Differentiating between these two explanations is important, as the former is tied to the use of authigenic U as a paleoproductivity proxy.

We examined sediments from 4 sediment cores retrieved from two different localities in the Panama Basin in the eastern equatorial Pacific. Two cores were retrieved from the northern Panama basin at the Cocos Ridge, (4JC at 5° 44.7’N 85° 45.5’ W, 1730 m depth; 8JC at 6° 14.0’N 86° 2.6’ W, 1993 m depth), and two were retrieved from the south at the Carnegie Ridge, (11JC at 0° 41.6’S 85° 20.0’ W, 2452 m depth; 17JC at 0° 10.8’S 85° 52.0’ W, 2846 m depth). Using 230Th systematics and seismic profiling at each of the sites, we’ve identified significant sediment winnowing (4JC and 11JC) and focusing (8JC and 17JC). At all sites, we believe that changes in age-model-derived sand (i.e., >63µm) mass accumulation rates (MAR) best represent changes in rain rates. Glacial rain rates are higher than those in the Holocene by a factor of 2-3 at both sites. Peak Mn levels (>1%), the brown-to-green color transition (which likely represents the oxic/post-oxic boundary), and peak U concentrations all appear in the same order with increasing depth down core. At the Carnegie sites, where MARs are greater than those at the Cocos sites, increases in authigenic U (up to 4 ppm) occur during the mid- to late Holocene at depths of 10-15 cm. At the Cocos sites, increases in authigenic U (up to 12 ppm) occur lower in the sediment column (25-30 cm) during the late glacial. The decrease in sediment MAR (and, likely, productivity) between the last glacial and the Holocene has most likely driven the syndiagenetic enrichment of U at these sites by diffusion of bottom water U to slightly beyond the oxic/post-oxic boundary. Hence, changing bottom water oxygen levels are not a requirement to explain authigenic U concentrations in eastern equatorial Pacific sediments.