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Carbon sequestration on Mars

Christopher S. Edwards and Bethany L. Ehlmann
Carbon sequestration on Mars
Geology (Boulder) (August 2015) 43 (10): 863-866


On Earth, carbon sequestration in geologic units plays an important role in the carbon cycle, scrubbing CO (sub 2) from the atmosphere for long-term storage. While carbonate is identified in low abundances within the dust and soils of Mars, at <1 wt% in select meteorites, and in limited outcrops, no massive carbonate rock reservoir on Mars has been identified to date. Here, we investigate the largest exposed carbonate-bearing rock unit, the Nili Fossae plains, combining spectral, thermophysical, and morphological analyses to evaluate the timing and carbon sequestration potential of rocks on Mars. We find that the olivine-enriched ( approximately 20%-25%) basalts have been altered, by low-temperature in-situ carbonation processes, to at most approximately 20% Fe-Mg carbonate, thus limiting carbon sequestration in the Nili Fossae region to approximately 0.25-12 mbar of CO (sub 2) during the late Noachian-early Hesperian, before or concurrent with valley network formation. While this is large compared to modern-day CO (sub 2) reservoirs, the lack of additional, comparably sized post-late Noachian carbonate-bearing deposits on Mars indicates ineffective carbon sequestration in rock units over the past approximately 3.7 b.y. This implies a thin atmosphere (less than or equivalent to 500 mbar) during valley network formation, extensive post-Noachian atmospheric loss to space, or diffuse, deep sequestration by a yet-to-be understood process. In stark contrast to Earth's biologically mediated crust:atmosphere carbon reservoir ratio of approximately 10 (super 4) -10 (super 5) , Mars' ratio is a mere approximately 10-10 (super 3) , even if buried pre-Noachian crust holds multiple bars.

ISSN: 0091-7613
EISSN: 1943-2682
Serial Title: Geology (Boulder)
Serial Volume: 43
Serial Issue: 10
Title: Carbon sequestration on Mars
Affiliation: California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA, United States
Pages: 863-866
Published: 20150821
Text Language: English
Publisher: Geological Society of America (GSA), Boulder, CO, United States
References: 32
Accession Number: 2015-089160
Categories: Extraterrestrial geology
Document Type: Serial
Bibliographic Level: Analytic
Annotation: GSA Data Repository item 2015291
Illustration Description: illus.
Country of Publication: United States
Secondary Affiliation: GeoRef, Copyright 2022, American Geosciences Institute. Reference includes data from GeoScienceWorld, Alexandria, VA, United States. Reference includes data supplied by the Geological Society of America, Boulder, CO, United States
Update Code: 201538
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