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Organic 14C activity in an abyssal marine sediment


ONE measure of transport rates and residence times of organic carbon within the various organic carbon pools in the ocean is to follow perturbations from the 1952–58 and 1961–62 atmospheric thermonuclear bomb tests on the natural 14C activities of living, detrital and dissolved organic matter. We report here our measurement of the 14C activity of the total sedimentary organic carbon (SOC) in an abyssal red clay, as no such data were available for this organic carbon pool. Ultimately, these sedimentary organic 14C activities may be compared with the 14C activity of the source organic material in the water column and estimates made of the magnitude of organic carbon consumption at the seawater–sediment interface. What was found, unexpectedly, was evidence for the penetration of recent organic carbon from the 4 cm mixed layer at the sediment–seawater interface down to at least 12 cm in the sedimentary column. This suggests a different and more rapid mechanism for the sedimentation of some fraction of the SOC other than direct association with clay minerals.

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WILLIAMS, P., STENHOUSE, M., DRUFFEL, E. et al. Organic 14C activity in an abyssal marine sediment. Nature 276, 698–701 (1978).

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