Terrestrial ecosystems and the global biogeochemical silica cycle



[1] Most research on the global Si cycle has focused nearly exclusively on weathering or the oceanic Si cycle and has not explored the complexity of the terrestrial biogeochemical cycle. The global biogeochemical Si cycle is of great interest because of its impact on global CO2 concentrations through the combined processes of weathering of silicate minerals and transfer of CO2 from the atmosphere to the lithosphere. A sizable pool of Si is contained as accumulations of amorphous silica, or biogenic silica (BSi), in living tissues of growing plants, known as phytoliths, and, after decomposition of organic material, as remains in the soil. The annual fixation of phytolith silica ranges from 60–200 Tmol yr−1 and rivals that fixed in the oceanic biogeochemical cycle (240 Tmol yr−1). Internal recycling of the phytolith pool is intense with riverine fluxes of dissolved silicate to the oceans buffered by the terrestrial biogeochemical Si cycle, challenging the ability of weathering models to predict rates of weathering and consequently, changes in global climate. Consideration must be given to the influence of the terrestrial BSi pool on variations in the global biogeochemical Si cycle over geologic time and the influence man has had on modifying both the terrestrial and aquatic biogeochemical cycles.