Abstract

Charcoal in late Pleistocene marine sediments of the tropical Atlantic was measured to examine the regional history of charcoal deposition as it relates to biomass burning on adjacent continents and carbon sequestration in the ocean. Detailed analysis (∼ 1.0 k.y. resolution) of a deep-sea core from the eastern tropical Atlantic Ocean reveals that charcoal from Africa is a significant component of total organic carbon sedimentation during glacial intervals of the past 200000 yr. These findings alter previous assumptions as to the character of carbon deposition in this region and reduce previous estimates of marine organic carbon burial fluxes by 50%. Furthermore, the tempo of charcoal deposition is mainly linked to the growth and decay of high-latitude ice sheets and appears to be caused by changes in wind strength or direction during glacial time.

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