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The University of Southampton
Ocean and Earth Science, National Oceanography Centre Southampton

Research project: Marine diagenesis of tephra and the carbon cycle

Currently Active: 

Subaerial volcanism generates ~1015 g of tephra every year.  The proximity of most volcanoes to the oceans means a high proportion of this highly reactive material enters the oceans. We have been studying the early diagenesis of tephra in the Caribbean Sea around the island of Montserrat in an effort to constrain the impact of this process on the global carbon cycle and have recently extended this work to include analyses of sediments collected during IODP Expedition 340.

(Source: IODP Proposal)
Location of IODP 340 Drill sites

Potential links to carbon cycle

  1. Stimulating surface water productivity
  2. Pore water O2 depletion and organic carbon preservation
  3. Fe-organic carbon complexation
  4. Formation of calcium carbonate cements



Tephra diagenesis and the carbon cycle (Source: M Palmer)
Tephra diagenesis and carbon cycle

Scientific Aims

  1. To determine the extent and mechanism by which organic carbon preservation in volcanic sediments is de-pendent on the composition of tephra layers and surrounding sediments
  2. To determine the extent and mechanism of secondary carbonate formation in tephra in marine sediments and its dependence on the composition of the tephra and surrounding sediments
  3. To develop models quantifying organic carbon and carbonate behaviour during marine diagenesis of tephra



Prof M Palmer on IODP Exp 340 with Soufriere Hills volcano, Montserrat in background (Source: M Palmer)
Prof M Palmer on IODP Exp 340


This work is led by Professor Martin Palmer in collaboration with Dr Tom Gernon (Southampton) and Professor Jim McManus (Oregon State University).

The study also builds on recent PhD work at Southampton by Dr Debbie Hembury and Dr Will Homoky

Key Contacts

Prof Martin Palmer

PhDs and Other Opportunities


Associated research themes

Volcanic Processes

Past Present and Future Environmental Change

Carbon Storage and Geoengineering

Key Publications

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