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Elevated uranium concentrations in Lake Baikal sediments: Burial and early diagenesis

Publikationsart Peer-reviewed
Publikationsform Originalbeitrag (peer-reviewed)
Publikationsdatum 2016
Autor/in Lawrence M. Och, Beat Müller, Christian März, Adrian Wichser, Elena G. Vologina, Michael Sturm,
Projekt Diagenetic evolution and mineral composition of Fe/Mn layers in the sediments of Lake Baikal
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Originalbeitrag (peer-reviewed)

Zeitschrift Chemical Geology
Volume (Issue) 441
Seite(n) 92 - 105
Titel der Proceedings Chemical Geology
DOI 10.1016/j.chemgeo.2016.08.001


The water column of Lake Baikal (Siberia) is pervasively oxic and O2 penetrates several cm into the sediment, followed by distinct layers of Fe/Mn oxide that undergo reductive-dissolution/oxidative-precipitation cycles. Uranium (U) contents of the oxic surface sediment layers were ~15 μg g−1, which is unparalleled in oxygenated lakes. To understand the processes leading to this enrichment we investigated the geochemical composition of the particulate matter and pore water of four sediment cores from different locations in the lake and performed mass balance calculations based on sediment mass accumulation rates and published loads from major tributaries. The comparison of loads and export of U in Lake Baikal suggested that current estimates of loads are too low by a factor of about 3 compared to sediment mass accumulation rates. Peak loads during spring ice melt in tributaries that are difficult to monitor and quantify might be the main cause for the deviation. The high U concentrations in the lake sediments originated from the scavenging of U in the water column through association with settling organic particles and particulate Fe(III)- and, to a lesser extent, Mn(IV)-oxides.We outline the hypothesis that two distinct U phases, lithogenic and non-lithogenic U reach the lake sediment and that authigenic U is subsequently formed under reducing conditions within the sediment. In some cores we found that most U was remobilized during the degradation of organic matter, in particular within the top oxygenated layer of the sediment. Significant enrichments prevailed due to U adsorption to and/or co-precipitation with Fe-oxides. When Fe-oxides and, to a lesser extent, Mn-oxides were reductively dissolved, they released U to the pore water, leading to peak dissolved U concentrations in the anoxic sediment, which in turn, precipitated as authigenic U under predominantly sulphate-reducing conditions. The onset of the accumulation of authigenic U coincided with the formation of distinct Fe/Mn oxide layers above. We argue that the resilience of Fe-oxides (especially crystalline goethite and hematite), in association with phosphate, even within reducing (but nonsulfidic) sediments support the burial of substantial amounts of U.