In much of the global ocean, iron is a limiting nutrient for marine productivity. The formation of pyrite has been considered the most important sink of reactive iron in modern, organic-rich sediments. However, clay mineral transformations can also lead to long-term sequestration of iron during late diagenesis and in hydrothermal settings. Here we present evidence for substantial iron sequestration during the early diagenetic formation of ferruginous clay minerals, also called green-clay authigenesis, in the deep-sea environment of the Ivory Coast–Ghana Marginal Ridge. Using high-resolution electron microscopic methods and sequential sediment extraction techniques, we demonstrate that iron uptake by green-clay authigenesis can amount to 76 ± 127 μmol Fe cm−2 kyr−1, which is on average six times higher than that of pyrite in suboxic subsurface sediments 5 m below the sea floor or shallower. Even at depths of 15 m below the sea floor or greater, rates of iron burial by green clay and pyrite are almost equal at ∼80 μmol Fe cm−2 kyr−1. We conclude that green-clay formation significantly reduces the pore water inventory of dissolved iron in modern and ancient pelagic sediments, which challenges the long-standing conceptual view that clay mineral diagenesis is of little importance in current biogeochemical models of the marine iron cycle.
Fields of Expertise
- Advanced Materials Science
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