Quantifying the impact of riverine particulate dissolution in seawater on ocean chemistry

Morgan T. Jones*, Sigurur R. Gislason, Kevin W. Burton, Christopher R. Pearce, Vasileios Mavromatis, Philip A.E. Pogge von Strandmann, Eric H. Oelkers

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)


The quantification of the sources and sinks of elements to the oceans forms the basis of our understanding of global geochemical cycles and the chemical evolution of the Earth's surface. There is, however, a large imbalance in the current best estimates of the global fluxes to the oceans for many elements. In the case of strontium (Sr), balancing the input from rivers would require a much greater mantle-derived component than is possible from hydrothermal water flux estimates at mid-ocean ridges. Current estimates of riverine fluxes are based entirely on measurements of dissolved metal concentrations, and neglect the impact of riverine particulate dissolution in seawater. Here we present 87Sr/86Sr isotope data from an Icelandic estuary, which demonstrate rapid Sr release from the riverine particulates. We calculate that this Sr release is 1.1-7.5 times greater than the corresponding dissolved riverine flux. If such behaviour is typical of volcanic particulates worldwide, this release could account for 6-45% of the perceived marine Sr budget imbalance, with continued element release over longer timescales further reducing the deficit. Similar release from particulate material will greatly affect the marine budgets of many other elements, changing our understanding of coastal productivity, and anthropogenic effects such as soil erosion and the damming of rivers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)91-100
Number of pages10
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2014

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We are indebted to Jérôme Gaillardet and another anonymous reviewer for thorough and constructive reviews. We extend our thanks to Björgunarsveitin Brá, Emily Jones, Eydis Eiriksdóttir, Haraldur Rafn Ingvason, Olivia Jones, Pierre Brunet, Rósa Ólafsdóttir, and Snorri Guðbrandsson and for sampling and technical assistance. M.T.J. was supported by a Marie Curie Intra-European Fellowship ( PIEF-GA-2009-254495 ).

Other keywords

  • Dissolution
  • Estuaries
  • Fluxes
  • Global element cycles
  • Strontium
  • Suspended particles


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