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Annual fossil organic carbon delivery due to mechanical and chemical weathering of marly badlands areas

Abstract : A key issue in the study of the carbon cycle is constraining the stocks and fluxes in and between C-reservoirs. Among these, the role and importance of fossil organic carbon (FOC) release by weathering of outcropping sedimentary rocks on continental surfaces is still debated and remains poorly constrained. Our work focuses on FOC fluxes due to chemical and mechanical weathering of marls in two experimental watersheds with typical badlands geomorphology (Draix watersheds, Laval and Moulin, Alpes de Haute Provence, France). Organic matter from bedrock, soil litter and riverine particles are characterized by Rock-Eval 6 pyrolysis. FOC fluxes due to mechanical weathering are then estimated by monitoring the annual particulate solid exports at the outlets of the watersheds (1985-2005 period). FOC fluxes from chemical weathering were calculated using Ca2+ concentrations in dissolved loads (year 2002) to assess the amount of FOC released by the dissolution of the carbonate matrix. Results show that FOC delivery is mainly driven by mechanical weathering, with a yield ranging from 30 to 59 t km-2 yr-1 in the Moulin (0.08 km2) and Laval (0.86 km2) catchments, respectively, (1985-2005 average). The release of FOC attributed to chemical weathering was 2.2 to 4.2 t km-2 for the year 2002. These high FOC fluxes from badlands are similar to those observed in tectonically active mountain catchments. At a regional scale, badland outcropping within the Durance watershed does not exceed 0.25% in area of the Rhone catchment, but could annually deliver 12 000 t yr-1 of FOC. This flux could correspond to 27% of the total particulate organic carbon (POC) load exported by the Rhone River to the Mediterranean Sea. At a global scale, our findings suggest that erosion of badlands may contribute significantly to the transfer of FOC from continental surfaces to depositional environments.
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Y. Graz, Christian Di Giovanni, Yoann Copard, N. Mathys, A. Cras, et al.. Annual fossil organic carbon delivery due to mechanical and chemical weathering of marly badlands areas. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, Wiley, 2012, 37, pp.1263-1271. ⟨10.1002/esp.3232⟩. ⟨insu-00782723⟩

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