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Phosphorus Cycle in the Ocean

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Abstract

The behavior of phosphorus is considered at major stages of the sedimentary cycle beginning with supply sources for its delivery into the ocean to precipitation and its sedimentation, localization and subsequent diagenetic redistribution in bottom sediments. River runoff represents the main phosphorus source in the ocean. It delivers annually about 1.5 Mt of dissolved phosphorus and more than 20 Mt of suspended phosphorus into the ocean. Up to 80% of the suspended phosphorus incorporated in the lithogenic material precipitates within submarine continental margins. Phosphorus dissolved in seawater repeatedly participates in biogeochemical processes owing to its assimilation by phytoplankton that annually consumes from 1.5 to 2.5 Gt of phosphorus. Dissolved phosphorus is incorporated in organic remains and precipitates from seawater by a biogenic mechanism, too. Only a part of phosphorus settled onto the bottom is buried in sediments. Due to reducing diagenetic processes, up to 30–40% of the primarily precipitated phosphorus diffuses from the upper layer of sediments into bottom water. Diffusion flux into the ocean significantly exceeds the supply of dissolved phosphorus from river runoff. The absolute mass phosphorus dispersed in sediments is several orders of magnitude greater than the mass concentrated in phosphorite deposits. However, the majority of phosphorite formation epochs coincide with the intensification of total phosphorus accumulation in marine sediments in conditions of humid climate, intense chemical weathering of rocks on continents, and considerable expansion of the oceanic shelf area.

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Baturin, G.N. Phosphorus Cycle in the Ocean. Lithology and Mineral Resources 38, 101–119 (2003). https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1023499908601

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