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Mountain glaciation drives rapid oxidation of rock-bound organic carbon.

Horan, K and Hilton, R G and Selby, D and Ottley, C J and Gröcke, D R and Hicks, M and Burton, K W (2017) 'Mountain glaciation drives rapid oxidation of rock-bound organic carbon.', Science advances., 3 (10). e1701107.


Over millions of years, the oxidation of organic carbon contained within sedimentary rocks is one of the main sources of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, yet the controls on this emission remain poorly constrained. We use rhenium to track the oxidation of rock-bound organic carbon in the mountain watersheds of New Zealand, where high rates of physical erosion expose rocks to chemical weathering. Oxidative weathering fluxes are two to three times higher in watersheds dominated by valley glaciers and exposed to frost shattering processes, compared to those with less glacial cover; a feature that we also observe in mountain watersheds globally. Consequently, we show that mountain glaciation can result in an atmospheric carbon dioxide source during weathering and erosion, as fresh minerals are exposed for weathering in an environment with high oxygen availability. This provides a counter mechanism against global cooling over geological time scales.

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Publisher statement:Copyright © 2017 The Authors, some rights reserved; exclusive licensee American Association for the Advancement of Science. No claim to original U.S. Government Works. Distributed under a Creative Commons Attribution License 4.0 (CC BY). This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution license, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Date accepted:12 September 2017
Date deposited:06 October 2017
Date of first online publication:04 October 2017
Date first made open access:06 October 2017

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