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Solute Isotope Fractionation during Fluid Transit

Project description

Isotopes of dissolved minerals shed light on weathering processes and the carbon cycle

As Earth's climate continues to change mainly due to atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) content, it is increasingly important to understand processes that affect the carbon cycle. One such process is mineral carbonation, the sequestering of CO2 by various mineral sources, which occurs when acidic rain containing dissolved CO2 falls on silicate rocks. However, the actual mechanisms and the factors affecting them are largely unknown. The EU-funded SIFFT project is investigating whether the length of time that the silicate rock is in contact with the water plays an important role. Combining data from controlled lab experiments and field studies exploiting novel isotope tracers of chemical silicate weathering, a mathematical model will represent hydrological variability and its effect on weathering fluxes. The project will help scientists better predict weathering and carbon sequestration processes in the context of climate change.


The chemical dissolution (weathering) of continental silicate rocks is a crucial Earth System process that makes nutrients available to ecosystems and consumes atmospheric CO2, affecting Earth’s climate and habitability. The mechanistic controls on chemical weathering are still poorly understood, partly due to lack of integration between geochemical and hydrological concepts. Here, I propose to test a key hypothesis that silicate weathering fluxes are primarily controlled by how long water spends in contact with rocks, before being exported via rivers. To do this, I will use novel tracers of chemical silicate weathering - the stable isotope ratios of dissolved silicon (δ30Si) and lithium (δ7Li) in a project that couples controlled lab weathering experiments with a watershed-scale field study.
I will use column flow-through and batch reactor experiments to simulate in isolation the effect of variable water-rock interaction times on dissolved δ30Si and δ7Li. I will then compare these results with natural weathering observed in a study watershed, recording the response of riverine δ30Si and δ7Li to variable hydrological conditions. The water transit time variations in the watershed will be constrained using water hydrogen and oxygen isotope ratios (δD, δ18O, 3H). Finally, I will synthesize the experimental and field results to build a novel reactive transport framework that will incorporate a robust representation of hydrological variability in determining weathering fluxes and isotopic riverine signatures.
The results of this project will have important implications for our understanding of the links between climate and chemical weathering. In turn, this will enable a better prediction how nutrient and carbon cycles, driven by weathering, will respond to anthropogenic perturbation of atmospheric composition, the hydrological cycle, and natural ecosystems, which is a major European and global environmental research priority.


Net EU contribution
€ 184 707,84
75238 Paris

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Ile-de-France Ile-de-France Paris
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
€ 184 707,84