Carbon isotope exchange during anaerobic oxidation of methane (AOM) in sediments of the northeastern South China Sea.

Chuang, Pei-Chuan, Yang, Tsanyao Frank, Wallmann, Klaus , Matsumoto, Ryo, Hu, Ching-Yi, Chen, Hsuan-Wen, Lin, Saulwood , Sun, Chih-Hsien, Li, Hong-Chun , Wang, Yunshuen and Dale, Andrew W. (2019) Carbon isotope exchange during anaerobic oxidation of methane (AOM) in sediments of the northeastern South China Sea. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, 246 . pp. 138-155. DOI 10.1016/j.gca.2018.11.003.

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The major processes that determine the distribution of methane (CH4) in anoxic marine sediments are methanogenesis and the anaerobic oxidation of methane (AOM), with organoclastic sulfate reduction exerting an important secondary control. However, the factors leading to the distribution of stable carbon isotopes (δ13C) of CH4 are currently poorly understood, in particular the commonly-observed minimum in δ13C-CH4 at the sulfate-methane transition (SMT) where AOM rates reach maximum values. Conventional isotope systematics predict 13C-enrichment of CH4 in the SMT due to preferential 12CH4 consumption by AOM. Two hypotheses put forward to explain this discrepancy are the addition of 12C-enriched CH4 to porewaters by methanogenesis in close proximity to AOM, and enzymatically-mediated carbon isotope equilibrium between forward and backward AOM at low concentrations of sulfate. To examine this in more detail, field data including δ13C of CH4 and dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) from the continental margin offshore southwestern Taiwan were simulated with a reaction-transport model. Model simulations showed that the minima in δ13C-CH4 and δ13C-DIC in the SMT could only be simulated with carbon isotope equilibrium during AOM. The potential for carbon cycling between methanogenesis and AOM in and just below the SMT was insignificant due to very low rates of methanogenesis. Backward AOM also gives rise to a pronounced kink in the δ13C-DIC profile several meters below the SMT that has been observed in previous studies. We suggest that this kink marks the true base of the SMT where forward and backward AOM are operating at very low rates, possibly sustained by cryptic sulfur cycling or barite dissolution.

Document Type: Article
Keywords: Anaerobic oxidation, Sea-floor, Methane, Carbon isotopes, Model, Sulfate reduction, South China Sea, RV Marion Dufresne, MD178
Research affiliation: MARUM
OceanRep > GEOMAR > FB2 Marine Biogeochemistry > FB2-MG Marine Geosystems
Refereed: Yes
Open Access Journal?: No
DOI etc.: 10.1016/j.gca.2018.11.003
ISSN: 0016-7037
Projects: Excellence Cluster 'The Ocean in the Earth System'
Date Deposited: 17 Dec 2018 07:47
Last Modified: 17 Dec 2018 07:47

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