Understanding Lithium Isotopes
Lithium isotopes as a tracer of weathering processes
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We have spent considerable effort trying to understand how precisely lithium isotopes (our weathering tracer of choice) behave in the modern environment. This is the only way to determine what Li isotopes are telling us about past weathering: by examining analogous modern environments. We have looked at modern rivers and soils from many different environments: Iceland, Greenland, the Azores, the Ganges flood plains, New Zealand and the Lena River. In all cases, the formation of clays (which fractionate Li isotopes) tends to happen in the flood plains, rather than on hill slopes.
This is important, because clay formation inhibits the sequestration of CO2. In other words, if the cations that matter in carbonate formation (and hence CO2 sequestration) end up being retained in clays on the continents, they do not help to remove CO2 in the oceans. Hence (and this is critical) lithium isotopes are a tracer for the silicate weathering efficiency, which determines the CO2 drawdown efficiency.
Universities: UCL, Birkbeck
Principal Researcher: Philip Pogge von Strandmann
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