Carbon in marine carbonate sediment
In shallow productive seas - like those in the Bahamas - the sediments are rich in calcium carbonate. The source of this form of carbon are the shells and skeletons of dead sea creatures.
When creatures die most of the organic matter is effectively recycled by consumers. But the shells of plankton, molluscs and corals containing calcium carbonate are indigestible - even to a snail. So the material builds up as sediments around the continental margins.
In the deeper seas the carbonate debris that rains down is nearly all from the skeletons and shells of plankton. Near the surface, the amount of organic carbon in debris exceeds carbonate carbon by 4 to 1. But at the ocean floor the proportions are reversed. Because other organisms can’t consume calcium carbonate, these sediments accumulate slowly but surely at the bottom of the sea.
Where do you find the carbon?
The calcium carbonate sediments of the world's oceans and shallow seas
What form of carbon?
How long will the carbon remain?
About 9000 years on average
How much carbon is there?
About 1800 x 1012kg
What processes will free the carbon?
Copyright & revisions
Originally published: Sunday, 7th May 2000
Last updated on: Sunday, 7th May 2000
- Body text - Copyrighted: The Open University
- Image 'Caribbean beach rich in marine carbonate sediment' - Copyrighted: photos.com
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