Isotope studies of insular phosphates explain atoll phosphatization

Abstract

Carbonate apatite1 with the general formula Ca10 (PO4, CO3)6(F,OH)2 is a major component of the phosphate deposits that occur on numerous coral reef islands2–6. Such insular pohsphates are generally accepted to be the result of chemical interaction between solutions leaching seabird guano and the underlying reef limestone2,7. Details of this process, however, and the specific environmental conditions which promote it, are not yet fully understood8. We present here oxygen and carbon isotope data from carbonate apatites which elucidate the process of phosphogenesis on the Pacific atolls and the palaeoclimatic conditions in which it occurs. We suggest that there were drier climates in the tropics during the Quaternary ice ages associated with an extension of equatorial upwelling in the Pacific.

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Aharon, P., Veeh, H. Isotope studies of insular phosphates explain atoll phosphatization. Nature 309, 614–617 (1984). https://doi.org/10.1038/309614a0

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