The Kaolinite Shuttle Links the Great Oxidation and Lomagundi Events

Estimated ‘kaolinicity’ in paleosols across the Great Oxidation Event.


The ~2.22–2.06 Ga Lomagundi Event was the longest positive carbon isotope excursion in Earth’s history and is commonly interpreted to reflect perturbations in continental weathering and the phosphorous cycle. Previous models have focused on mechanisms of increasing phosphorous solubilization during weathering without focusing on transport to the oceans and its dispersion in seawater. Building from new experimental results, here we report kaolinite readily absorbs phosphorous under acidic freshwater conditions, but quantitatively releases phosphorous under seawater conditions where it becomes bioavailable to phytoplankton. The strong likelihood of high weathering intensities and associated high kaolinite content in post-Great-Oxidation-Event paleosols suggests there would have been enhanced phosphorus shuttling from the continents into marine environments. A kaolinite phosphorous shuttle introduces the potential for nonlinearity in the fluxes of phosphorous to the oceans with increases in chemical weathering intensity.

Nature Communications
Kaarel Mänd
Kaarel Mänd
Research Fellow at the University of Tartu

My research focuses on investigating Precambrian redox conditions using trace metal based redox proxies.