Magnesium isotope fractionation during continental weathering

Monday, 15 December 2014: 4:30 PM
Fang-zhen Teng, University Of Washington, Seattle, WA, United States, Kang-Jun Huang, Peking University, School of Earth and Space Sciences, Beijing, China, Wangye Li, USTC University of Science and Technology of China, School of Earth and Space Sciences, Hefei, China, Xiao-Ming Liu, Carnegie Institution for Science, Washington, DC, United States and Lin Ma, University of Texas at El Paso, El Paso, TX, United States
Continental weathering links the atmosphere, hydrosphere and continents as it regulates the CO2 content of the atmosphere, shifts the composition of the continental crust from basaltic to andesitic, and ultimately controls the chemical composition of river waters and seawater. Magnesium is a water-soluble major element in the hydrosphere, continental crust and the mantle, and has three stable isotopes (24Mg, 25Mg and 26Mg). Studies of Mg isotopes during continental weathering may help to document the interactions between hydrosphere, crust and mantle. Previous studies have shown that the continental crust has a heterogeneous but on average heavier Mg isotopic composition than the mantle, whereas the hydrosphere is isotopically light. The complementary characteristics of Mg isotopic compositions between continental and hydrosphere have been attributed to continental weathering, with light Mg isotopes partitioned into water, leaving heavy Mg isotopes behind in the crustal residue. Here we summarize our studies of Mg isotope fractionation in four weathering profiles under various climate conditions. We show that large Mg isotope fractionation can occur during continental weathering. Although the weathered residue is usually enriched in heavier Mg isotopes than unaltered parent rocks, some heavily weathered products can be quite light in Mg isotopic composition. The complicated behaviors of Mg isotopes reflect different control factors during weathering such as parent rock lithology, primary mineral dissolution, secondary mineral formation, ion exchange, vegetation uptake etc. Though studies of natural samples can provide direct evidence on isotope fractionation, more well-controlled laboratory experiments on Mg isotope fractionation between fluids and minerals are needed in order to fully understand the behaviors of Mg isotopes during weathering, which ultimately lays the foundation for making Mg isotope geochemistry an important tool for studying different geological problems.