Clarification of the factors involved in the formation of unusual ancient organic carbon– rich deposits (like eastern Mediterranean sapropels) is central in understanding oceanic carbon cycling. The role of oxygenation remains a subject of controversy primarily due to two major uncertainties: (1) it is unknown if ancient organic-rich deposits reflect an accumulation of refractory organic matter (OM) or oxygenation-related aberrant sediment OM recycling, and (2) although marine OM degradation may be slower under anoxic conditions, its ultimate impact on organic carbon (Corg) preservation over geological time remains unclear. Here we provide direct experimental evidence that the Corg in eastern Mediterranean S1 sapropels (deposited >5 ka) is still highly reactive and that a shutdown in labile organic matter degradation under anoxic conditions played a key role in the formation of these deposits.

You do not currently have access to this article.