Significant Biogenic Silica Retention from Reverse Weathering in Non-deltaic Sediments
Friday, 19 December 2014
Coastal biogeochemical processes exert important controls on the net delivery of silicon to the ocean. Reverse weathering of biogenic silica by authigenic transformation has been suggested to be an important processes for silicon retention in coastal sediments. Many reported sediment biogenic silica measurements may underestimate this authigenically-transformed fraction; for example, the incorporation of metal hydroxides with the biogenic silica matrix suppresses the ability to distinguish it from mineral silica when using a traditional alkaline leach. Most studies demonstrating the importance of reverse weathering on biogenic silica have examined deltaic sediments in river dominated systems (e.g. Mississippi, Amazon), but this has not been examined in sediments which lack strong fluvial input. Using sediment cores from the outside the Mississippi River plume, we adapted a method which lessens the interference of metal hydroxides on biogenic silica by using an initial acid leach. The addition of this step increased the measured biogenic silica up to five-fold above that detected using a traditional alkaline digestion method. The magnitude of authigenically-altered biogenic silica in these cores was significant, representing a majority of the sediment biogenic silica pool at most depths. These findings confirm the importance of reverse-weathered biogenic silica as a mechanism for silicon retention and suggest the significance of this process may be more widespread.