Influence of solution chemistry on the boron content in inorganic calcite grown in artificial seawater

The ratio of boron to calcium (B/Ca) in marine biogenic carbonates has been proposed as a proxy for properties of seawater carbonate chemistry. Applying this proxy to planktic foraminifera residing in the surface seawater largely in equilibrium with the atmosphere may provide a critical constraint on past atmospheric CO2 concentrations. However, precise controls on B/Ca in planktic foraminifera remain enigmatic because it has been shown to depend on multiple physicochemical seawater properties. To help establish a firm inorganic basis for interpreting the B/Ca records, we examined the effect of a suite of chemical parameters ([Ca2+], pH, [DIC], salinity and [PO43-]) on B/Ca in inorganic calcite precipitated in artificial seawater. These parameters were primarily varied individually while keeping all others constant, but we also tested the influence of pH and [DIC] at a constant calcite precipitation rate (R) by concurrent [Ca2+] adjustments. In the simple [Ca2+], pH and [DIC] experiments, both R and B/Ca increased with these parameters. In the pH–[Ca2+] and [DIC]–[Ca2+] experiments at constant R, on the other hand, B/Ca was invariant at different pH and decreased with [DIC], respectively. These patterns agree with the behavior of solution [BTotal/DIC] ratio such that, at a fixed [BTotal], it is independent of pH but decreases with [DIC]. Based on these results, R and [BTotal/DIC] ratio appear to be the primary controls on B/Ca in inorganic calcite, suggesting that both B(OH)4 and B(OH)3 are possibly involved in B incorporation. Moreover, B/Ca modestly increased with salinity and [PO43-]. Inorganic calcite precipitated at higher R and in the presence of oxyanions such as SO42- and PO43- in growth solutions often undergoes surface roughening due to formation of crystallographic defects, vacancies and, occasionally, amorphous/hydrous CaCO3.These non-lattice sites may provide additional space for B, particularly B(OH)3. Consequently, besides the macroscopic influence of R and bulk solution chemistry, molecular-scale processes associated with calcite nucleation can be an important consideration for B incorporation, especially in complex ionic solutions. Lastly, the covariance of B/Ca with [DIC] and salinity observed here qualitatively agrees with those in planktic foraminifers. It follows that their impact on foraminiferal B/Ca is partly inorganically driven, which may explain why the effect is evident across different species.

Uchikawa J., Harper D. T., Penman D. E., Zachos J. C. & Zeebe R. E., in press. Influence of solution chemistry on the boron content in inorganic calcite grown in artificial seawater. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta. Article (subscription required).

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