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Sediments tell of world weathering history

Our ability to construct past changes in environments across the world remains limited. Researchers recently demonstrated a method that can help reconstruct the past using silicon isotopes in marine sediments all over the world.
Sediments tell of world weathering history
The weathering of silicate (silicon-based) rocks is thought to have played a major role in regulating the Earth's climate over geological time. Better understanding this system would enhance knowledge of how chemical weathering relates to climate change and human activity.

The EU-funded SI-PALEO (Establishing silicon isotopes as weathering tracers for paleoenvironmental studies) initiative aimed to use silicon isotopes in marine sediments as a way to look into past continental weathering. The researchers studied river-borne and marine sediments from all over the world to achieve this.

SI-PALEO set out to determine what controls the distribution of silicon isotopes in sediments originating from land rock weathering. Project researchers analysed modern sediments collected near the mouth of rivers such as the Amazon and the Congo.

The research team also investigated the role of climate change and human activities on past weathering in central Africa. They found a clear link between silicon isotopes in fine-grained sediments and climatic parameters such as rainfall.

SI-PALEO used this info to identify the mechanism behind historical rainfall distribution in Australia and central Africa and Australia. The team found that sudden shifts in sediment export were caused more by agriculture and biomass burning than climate change.

These results will improve our understanding of past interactions among climate change, the environment and human activities.

Related information

Keywords

Silicon isotopes, marine sediments, weathering, climate change, SI-PALEO
Record Number: 190628 / Last updated on: 2016-11-29
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