Barium in deep sea sediments: A geochemical proxy for paleoproductivity

Dymond, J., Suess, Erwin and Lyle, M. (1992) Barium in deep sea sediments: A geochemical proxy for paleoproductivity Paleoceanography, 7 (2). pp. 163-181. DOI 10.1029/92PA00181.

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We used sediment traps to define the particulate fluxes of barium and organic carbon and investigate the use of barium as a proxy for ocean fertility. Strong correlations between Corg and Ba fluxes indicate a link between upper ocean biological processes and barium flux to the seafloor. The ratio of organic carbon to barium decreases systematically with water depth. Data from 10 sites indicate that organic debris settling from the 200-m depth has a Corg /Ba ratio of approximately 200. The systematic decrease in this ratio with increasing water depth results from the simultaneous decay of organic matter and uptake of Ba in settling particles. This behavior provides additional evidence that the formation of barite in oceanic particles is a consequence of decomposition/uptake in microenvironments rather than the secretion of barite by specific organisms. The decrease of the Corg/Ba ratio with depth is greatest in the North Pacific followed by the equatorial Pacific and is lowest in the western Atlantic. Since this spatial pattern is consistent with the variations in the deep-ocean barium contents which increase along the path of bottom water flow from the Atlantic to the North Pacific, it suggests that the particulate barium uptake and flux is enhanced by higher barium contents in the intermediate and deep waters of the ocean. Consequently, we have combined our particle flux data with existing water column Ba data to define an algorithm relating new productivity, dissolved barium contents, water depth, and particulate barium flux. This relationship provides a basis of applying barium flux measurements in sediments to estimating new production. In order to use barium as an indicator of productivity, it will be necessary to evaluate inputs from hydrothermal and aluminosilicate sources and xenophyophors. The application of a sequential leach procedure to the trap material indicates that 50-70% of the Ba in settling particles is in the form of barite and the remaining is adsorbed or bound to carbonates. Normative analysis demonstrates that in nearshore areas the contribution of barium from aluminosilicate sources can dominate that from biogenic inputs. It appears that normative estimates of biogenic barium contents can be made with accuracy if less than 50% of the Ba is associated with aluminosilicates; i.e., is of terrigenous origin. Since diagenetic mobilization of Ba can occur in reduced and suboxic sediments, highly productive nearshore areas also are likely to be inappropriate sites to use Ba measurements as productivity indicators. Comparisons between the rain rates of particulate Ba to the seafloor and the burial rate indicate that approximately 30% of the Ba rain is preserved. Although the preservation factor does not appear to be constant, it may be possible to predict the extent of preservation from an empirical relationship with the mass accumulation rate. These observations indicate that measurement of Ba burial fluxes in sediments can provide quantitative information on the paleoproductivity of the oceans. Joining the relationship between barium rain and burial with the barium and organic carbon algorithm, we make estimates of the new production in the northern California Current during the last 18,000 years. This calculation suggests that new production was at least a factor of 2 lower at this site during the last glacial maximum.

Document Type: Article
Keywords: Barium, deep sea sediments, geochemical proxy, paleoproductivity
Research affiliation: OceanRep > GEOMAR > FB2 Marine Biogeochemistry
Refereed: Yes
DOI etc.: 10.1029/92PA00181
ISSN: 0883-8305
Date Deposited: 18 Feb 2008 17:27
Last Modified: 06 Jan 2017 12:34

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