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A marine sink for chlorine in natural organic matter
Leri, A.C.; Mayer, L.M.; Thornton, K.R.; Northrup, P.A.; Dunigan, M.R.; Ness, K.J.; Gellis, A.B. (2015). A marine sink for chlorine in natural organic matter. Nature Geoscience 8(8): 620-624.
In: Nature Geoscience. Nature Publishing Group: London. ISSN 1752-0894; e-ISSN 1752-0908, more
Peer reviewed article  

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  • Leri, A.C.
  • Mayer, L.M.
  • Thornton, K.R.
  • Northrup, P.A.
  • Dunigan, M.R.
  • Ness, K.J.
  • Gellis, A.B.

    Chloride—the most abundant ion in sea water—affects ocean salinity, and thereby seawater density and ocean circulation. Its lack of reactivity gives it an extremely long residence time. Other halogens are known to be incorporated into marine organic matter. However, evidence of similar transformations of seawater chloride is lacking, aside from emissions of volatile organochlorine by marine algae. Here we report high organochlorine concentrations from 180 to 700 mg kg-1 in natural particulate organic matter that settled into sediment traps at depths between 800 and 3,200 m in the Arabian Sea, taken between 1994 and 1995. X-ray spectromicroscopic imaging of chlorine bonding reveals that this organochlorine exists primarily in concentrated aliphatic forms consistent with lipid chlorination, along with a more diffuse aromatic fraction. High aliphatic organochlorine in particulate material from cultured phytoplankton suggests that primary production is a source of chlorinated organic matter. We also found that particulate algal detritus can act as an organic substrate for abiotic reactions involving Fe2+, H2O2 or light that incorporate chlorine into organic matter at levels up to several grams per kilogram. We conclude that transformations of marine chloride to non-volatile organochlorine through biological and abiotic pathways represent an oceanic sink for this relatively unreactive element.

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