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Landslides as geological hotspots of CO2 emission: clues from the instrumented Séchilienne landslide, western European Alps.

Abstract : This study makes use of a highly instrumented active landslide observatory (9 years of data) in the French Alps, the Séchilienne slope. Here, we use a combination of major element chemistry and isotopes ratios (87Sr / 86Sr, δ34S) measured in different water types of the stable and unstable part of the Séchilienne instability to assess the contribution of the different lithologies of the slope and the chemical weathering mechanisms. Chemical and isotopic ratios are used to characterize weathering processes and the origin of waters and their flow paths through the massif. A mixing model allows us to allocate the different major elements to different sources, to identify secondary carbonate formation as a major process affecting solutes in the subsurface waters of the instability, and to quantify the involvement of sulfuric and carbonic acids as a source of protons. We show that the instability creates favorable and sustained conditions for the production of sulfuric acid by pyrite oxidation, by opening new fractures and supplying fresh reactive surfaces. We clearly identify the contribution of the dissolution of each mineral phase to the chemistry of the waters, with a clear role of remote gypsum dissolution to the sulfate budget in the sampled waters. We are also able to refine the preexisting hydrogeological views on the local water circulation and water flow paths in the instability by showing the hydrological connectivity of the different zones. Overall, our results show that the Séchilienne landslide, despite its role in accelerating rock chemical and physical weathering, acts as a geological source of CO2 to the atmosphere. If generalizable to other large instabilities in mountain ranges, this study illustrates the complex coupling between physical and chemical erosion and their impact on the carbon cycle and global climate. The study also highlights the importance of distinguishing between sulfite oxidation and gypsum dissolution as a source of sulfate ions to rivers, particularly in mountain ranges.
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Contributor : Rémi Laffont <>
Submitted on : Saturday, July 17, 2021 - 8:17:53 AM
Last modification on : Sunday, July 18, 2021 - 3:07:52 AM


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Pierre Nevers, Julien Bouchez, Jérôme Gaillardet, Christophe Thomazo, Delphine Charpentier, et al.. Landslides as geological hotspots of CO2 emission: clues from the instrumented Séchilienne landslide, western European Alps.. Earth Surface Dynamics, European Geosciences Union, 2021, 9 (3), pp.487-504. ⟨10.5194/esurf-9-487-2021⟩. ⟨hal-03289192⟩



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