Key Laboratory of Marine Chemistry Theory and Technology/Institute of Advanced Ocean Study, Ocean University of China, Qingdao, China; Center for Isotope Geochemistry and Geochronology, Qingdao National Laboratory for Marine Science and Technology, Qingdao, China. Electronic address: [Email]
The concentrations and carbon isotopic (13C, 14C) compositions of total organic carbon (TOC) and black carbon (BC) were measured for four sediment cores collected from the shelf to slope in the Arctic Ocean. Contents of TOC and BC ranged from 0.46% to 1.94% and 0.04% to 0.13% by dry weight, and BC accounted for 3.5% to 15.2% of the TOC preserved in the shelf and slope sediments. Sediment of the Chukchi shelf contained relatively high BC contents compared with the sediments of the Arctic slope, suggesting strong influence from the river and terrestrial inputs to the shelf region. Radiocarbon measurements revealed that the ages of BC are in the range of 7330 to 29,700 years (before present) and they are 4093 to 7723 years older than the 14C ages of TOC preserved in the same sediment depths. Based on an isotopic mass balance model, we calculated that fossil fuel combustion contributed 62-96%, and biomass burning contributed 4-38% of the BC pool in the sediments of the study area. This "slow-cycling" old BC is an important fraction of the inert organic carbon pool preserved in the sediments, and represents a significant sink of atmospheric CO2 and global carbon cycle. With the thawing permafrost caused by continuous global warming, the size of this BC pool mobilized and exported by rivers to the Arctic Ocean could increase in the future.