Halama, R and Bebout, G (2021) Earth’s Nitrogen and Carbon Cycles. Space Science Reviews, 217 (3). ISSN 0038-6308

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Understanding the Earth’s geological nitrogen (N) and carbon (C) cycles is fundamental for assessing the distribution of these volatiles between solid Earth (core, mantle and crust), oceans and atmosphere. This Special Communication about the Earth’s N and C cycles contains material that is relevant for researchers who are interested in the Topical Collection on planetary evolution “Reading Terrestrial Planet Evolution in Isotopes and Element Measurements”. Variations in the fluxes of N and C between these major reservoirs through geological time influenced the evolution and determined the unique composition of the Earth’s atmosphere. Here we review several key geological aspects of the N and C cycles of which our understanding has significantly advanced during the last decade through field-based, experimental and theoretical studies. Subduction zones are the most important pathway of both N and C from the Earth’s surface into the deep Earth. A key question in the flux quantification is how much of the volatile elements is stored in the downgoing slab and introduced into the mantle and how much is returned back to the surface and the atmosphere through arc magmatism. For N, the retention of N as-bearing minerals determines whether N is predominantly retained in the slab to mantle depths (in subduction zones with a low geothermal gradient) or devolatilized (in subduction zones with a high geothermal gradient). Several lines of evidence suggest that the mantle is regassing with respect to N due to a net influx of subducted N over time, but this issue is highly debated and evidence to the contrary also exists. Nevertheless, there is consensus that the majority of the planetary N budget is stored in the Earth’s mantle, with the continental crust also constituting a significant N reservoir. For C, release from the subducting slab occurs through decarbonation reactions, dissolution and formation of carbonatitic liquids, but reprecipitation of C in the slab or the forearc mantle wedge may limit the effectiveness of direct return of C into the atmosphere. Carbon release through regional metamorphism in collision zone orogens also has potentially profound effects on C release into the atmosphere and consensus has emerged that such orogens are sources rather than sinks of atmospheric CO. On shorter timescales, contact metamorphism through interaction of mantle-derived magmas with C-bearing country rocks, and the resulting release of large quantities of CH and/or CO, has been linked to global warming events.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.
Uncontrolled Keywords: Nitrogen cycle; Carbon cycle; Planetary atmospheres; Planetary evolution
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > G Geography (General)
Divisions: Faculty of Natural Sciences > School of Geography, Geology and the Environment
Depositing User: Symplectic
Date Deposited: 06 Apr 2021 08:35
Last Modified: 06 Apr 2021 08:35
URI: https://eprints.keele.ac.uk/id/eprint/9338

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