Oxidation of petrogenic organic carbon in the Amazon floodplain as a source of atmospheric CO2 Academic Article uri icon


  • The two long-term sources of atmospheric carbon are CO2 degassing from metamorphic and volcanic activity, and oxidation of organic carbon (OC) contained in sedimentary rocks, or petrogenic organic carbon (OCpetro). The latter flux is still poorly constrained. In this study, we report particulate organic carbon content and C-14 activity measurements in Amazon River sediments, which allow for estimates of the OCpetro content of these sediments. A large decrease of OCpetro content in riverine sediments is observed from the outlet of the Andes to the mouth of the large tributaries. This loss reveals oxidation of OCpetro during transfer of sediments in the floodplain, and results in an escape of similar to 0.25 Mt C/yr to the atmosphere, which is on the same order of magnitude as the CO2 consumption by silicate weathering in the same area. Raman microspectroscopy investigations show that graphite is the most stable phase with respect to this oxidation process. These results emphasize the significance of OCpetro oxidation in large river floodplains in the global carbon cycle.

publication date

  • March 2010