Skip to main content

Partitioning of organic carbon across submarine slope environments

Although the burial of organic carbon in submarine fans and its importance for the carbon cycle have recently received growing attention, our understanding of the mechanisms at play is still lacking compared to other organic carbon storing environments.

Here, we present insights on the distribution of organic carbon throughout marine slope environments from the Arro System, Aínsa Basin (Spain). Evaluation of TOC content by C/S analysis from 82 samples show that there are distinct partitioning patterns of organic carbon between different depositional slope environments and mass transport complexes (MTC). Channel axes are relatively poor in organic carbon (average 0.1% TOC), while overbank deposits are relative enriched (average 0.49% TOC). Intraslope lobes show high variability between their sub-environments. Lobe axis deposits have an average TOC content of 0.13%, lobe fringe deposits 1.21% and the lobe distal fringe deposits 0.55%. Mass transport complexes have an average TOC content of 0.53 %. Integration of Hydrogen Indeces (HI) and Tmax, established by RockEval analyses, points towards our samples falling within the range between Type III and Type II kerogen (terrestrial and marine matter), while δC13 show a range between 24.5 and 26.5‰, indicating a predominantly terrestrial source.

Our study shows the partitioning of organic carbon across slope environments that are dominated by different depositional processes. The understanding of this variability is important as wrong assumptions about carbon content can be made from studies that ignore spatial differences and potentially lead to false interpretations of climatic/tectonic changes and estimations on carbon budgets.  


Yvonne Spychala1, Jutta Winsemann1, Miquel Poyatos-Moré2, Martin Blumenberg3
1Leibniz University Hannover, Germany; 2Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Spain; 3Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources (BGR), Hannover, Germany
GeoBerlin 2023