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J4 ›› 2012, Vol. 18 ›› Issue (2): 215-.

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Review and Advancements of Studies on Silicate Weathering
and the Global Carbon Cycle

WU Weihua, ZHENG Hongbo, YANG Jiedong, LUO Chao   

  1. Key Laboratory of Surficial Geochemistry, Ministry of Education; School of Earth Sciences and Engineering,Nanjing University, Nanjing
  • Online:2012-06-20 Published:2012-07-11
  • Contact: Wu Weihua, Associate Professor; E-mail: wuwh@nju.edu.cn


Silicate weathering is a major sink of the atmospheric CO2, which directly affects the global carbon cycle and the
climate. Since the pioneering work of Walker et al. (1981), studies on“ silicate weathering, carbon cycle and climate changes”
have sprung up in recent years. Many advancements have been obtained from computer models to river water geochemistry andfrom large rivers with a drainage area exceeding to 106 km2 to monolithologic small watershed with tens/hundreds km2 drainagearea,. In the global scale, atmospheric CO2 consumption from silicate weathering is about 0.138-0.169 Gt per year. Compared tothe current atmospheric carbon content of 800 Gt, at first glance, this CO2 consumption rate seems so slow that silicate weatheringwould play only a negligible role in the global carbon cycle. However, atmospheric CO2 removed from silicate weathering istransported by rivers and thereafter precipitated in the ocean as carbonate minerals, and the residence time of carbon in carbonaterocks is in excess of millions of years. Therefore, silicate weathering is an important mechanism that modulates the long-termcarbon cycle. Moreover, researches show that the small watersheds draining basalts/ophiolites in the tropical zones have thehighest silicate weathering and CO2 consumption rates. It is estimated that CO2 consumption from volcanic rocks in the tropicalzones represents about 10% of the global export of carbon by silicate weathering, while the tropical volcanic arcs correspond toonly~1% of the exorheic drainage area worldwide.

Key words: Silicate weathering, global carbon cycle, climate change

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