Crystallographic control on the boron isotope paleo-pH proxy

When using the boron isotopic composition (δ11B) of marine carbonates as a seawater pH proxy, it is assumed that only the tetrahedral borate ion is incorporated into the growing carbonate crystals and that no boron isotope fractionation occurs during uptake. However, the δ11B of the calcium carbonate from most modern foraminifera shells or corals skeletons is not the same as the δ11B of seawater borate, which depends on pH, an observation commonly attributed to vital effects. In this study, we combined previously published high-field 11B MAS NMR and new δ11B measurements on the same synthetic calcite and aragonite samples precipitated inorganically under controlled environments to avoid vital effects. Our results indicate that the main controlling factors of δ11B are the solution pH and the mineralogy of the precipitated carbonate mineral, whereas the aqueous boron concentration of the solution, CaCO3 precipitation rate and the presence or absence of growth seeds all appear to have negligible influence. In aragonite, the NMR data show that boron coordination is tetrahedral (BO4), in addition, its δ11B is equal to that of aqueous borate, thus confirming the paleo-pH hypothesis. In contrast, both trigonal BO3 and tetrahedral BO4 are present in calcite, and its δ11B values are higher than that of aqueous borate and are less sensitive to solution pH variations compared to δ11B in aragonite. These observations are interpreted in calcite as a reflection of the incorporation of decreasing amounts of boric acid with increasing pH. Moreover, the fraction of BO3 measured by NMR in calcite is higher than that inferred from δ11B which indicates a coordination change from BO4 to BO3 upon boron incorporation in the solid. Overall, this study shows that although the observed differences in δ11B between inorganic and biological aragonite are compatible with a pH increase at calcification sites, the B speciation and isotope composition of biological calcites call for a more complex mechanism of boron incorporation.

Noireaux J., Mavromatis V., Gaillardet J., Schott J., Montouillout V., Louvat P., Rollion-Bard C. & Neuville D. R., 2015. Crystallographic control on the boron isotope paleo-pH proxy. Earth and Planetary Science Letters 430:398–407. Article (subscription required).


  • Reset

Subscribe

OA-ICC Highlights


%d bloggers like this: