Silicon and chromium stable isotopic systematics during basalt weathering and lateritisation: A comparison of variably weathered basalt profiles in the Deccan Traps, India


Global biomass production is fundamentally affected by the hydrological cycling of elements at the Earth's surface. Continental weathering processes are the major source for most bio-essential elements in marine environments and therefore affect primary productivity. In addition, critical zone biomass depends on energy and chemical exchange reactions in weathering profiles. The latter reservoirs are in turn influenced by different climatic conditions that control weathering and pore water parameters like pH and Eh, which regulate mineral break down rates and dictate the mobility and mass flux of elements. Two Deccan Traps basalt weathering profiles of contrasting age and alteration intensity provide a natural laboratory for investigating the effects of rock alteration on Si and Cr and their isotopic. systematics. The Quaternary Chhindwara profile has progressed to a moderate degree of alteration (saprolite), while the Paleogene Bidar example displays an extremely altered laterite. The Chhindwara saprolite profile shows a near uniform Cr and Si concentration and isotopic composition, whereas the Bidar laterite profile is characterised by an intense loss of Si, a large enrichment of Cr within the most altered uppermost levels, and a wide range of Cr stable isotope ratios (-0.85 to 0.36 parts per thousand delta Cr-53/52). A co-variation between Si and Cr isotopes, as well as their co-variation with iron content, provides empirical evidence that iron redistribution within the profile has a large effect on Cr mobility and Si isotopic fractionation. Therefore, it is concluded that iron oxides exert a primary control over the isotopic composition of both Cr and Si in pore waters of laterites. Since laterite formation is promoted by tropical climates, the results of this study provide new evidence to suggest that the hydrological Cr and Si fluxes originating from continental weathering have changed in accordance with large-scale, deep time climate variation and continental plate configuration. An increased flux of Si and greater magnitude of Cr mobility and isotopic fractionation are possibly amplified under CO2-rich, greenhouse episodes and/or when large landmasses were tectonically arranged at near equatorial latitudes

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