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Keywords:

  • carbon cycle;
  • mass balance;
  • methane;
  • modeling;
  • paleoceanography;
  • upwelling

[1] Early diagenetic processes in Peruvian shelf and slope sediments are numerically reproduced by applying chemical thermodynamics in a complex, universal approach using the PHREEQC (version 2) computer code. The reaction kinetics of organic carbon remineralization are integrated into a set of equilibrium reactions by defining the type and the amount of converted organic matter in a certain time step. We calculate the most intense remineralization of organic carbon for present-day shelf sites, and the final carbon pool is dominated by secondary carbonates. This serves to highlight the influence of organic matter degradation and anaerobic oxidation of methane (AOM) on diagenetic mineral formation. The enrichment of aqueous methane and the formation of methane hydrate only takes place in slope sediments with high sedimentation rates that prevent diffusive loss of methane (e.g., Sites 682 and 688). Moreover, AOM prevents the diffusion of dissolved methane into overlying seawater. Throughout the Miocene period, these sites were located on a former shelf and the total carbon loss from the sediments was significantly higher in comparison with the present-day. Compared with the present-day shelf site, organic matter remineralization is high, and methane is produced but not stored within the sediments. Our model calculations rule out the possibility of present-day and former shelf site sediments off the coast of Peru as methane reservoirs. Remineralized TOC has to be considered, particularly in older sediments, when interpreting TOC profiles and calculating mass accumulation rates of total organic carbon (MARTOC). The more organic matter has been remineralized during the depositional history, the larger the difference between MARTOC calculated from measured TOC data, and from the sum of modeled and measured TOC data. Consequently, most reliable primary productivity calculations are based on the sum of measured relict TOC and the amount of remineralized organic carbon determined by modeling.