A new estimate of detrital redox-sensitive metal concentrations and variability in fluxes to marine sediments


The enrichment and depletion of redox sensitive trace metals in marine sediments have been used extensively as paleoredox proxies. The trace metals in shale are comprised of both detrital (transported or particulate) and authigenic (precipitated, redox-driven) constituents, potentially complicating the use of this suite of proxies. Untangling the influence of these components is vital for the interpretation of enrichments, depletions, and isotopic signals of iron (Fe), chromium (Cr), uranium (U), and vanadium (V) observed in the rock record. Traditionally, a single crustal average is used asa cutoff for detrital input, and concentrations above or below this value are interpreted as redox derived authigenic enrichment or depletion, while authigenic isotopic signals are frequently corrected for an assumed detrital contribution. Building from an extensive study of soils across the continental United States – which upon transport will become marine sediments – and their elemental concentrations, we find large deviations from accepted crustal averages in redox-sensitive metals (Fe, Cr, U, V) compared to typical detrital tracers (Al, Ti, Sc, Th) and provide new estimates for detrital contributions to the ocean. The variability in these elemental ratios is present over large areas, comparable to the catchment-size of major rivers around the globe. This heterogeneity in detrital flux highlights the need for a reevaluation of how the detrital contribution is assessed in trace metal studies, and the use of confidence intervals rather than single average values, especially in local studies or in the case of small authigenic enrichments.

Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
Shuang Zhang
Postdoc Fellow

Shuang Zhang loves exploring the global carbon cycle and climate change through data analysis and machine learning.