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Conference Papers Year : 2012

Lithium and carbon isotopes in river catchment: combined tracers to constrain chemical weathering processes


Water-rock interactions produced in river catchment are accompanied by fractionation or changes in stable isotopes such as H, Li, C and O during chemical weathering processes. Li is a fluid-mobile element that tends to preferentially partition into the fluid phase during water-rock interaction. The relative mass difference between the two isotopes is considerable, generating large mass dependent fractionation during chemical weathering processes. The CO2 dissolves into the water providing the main acid that attack the rock during chemical weathering. Carbon stable isotopes and concentration of Dissolved Inorganic Carbon (DIC) in the river catchment can be used to determine the origin and consumption rates of CO2. In the present work, stable isotopes were analyzed in Allier River, one of the major river basins of France. The lithology is dominated by granite rocks within current upstream, while it is mainly basaltic and Oligocene sediments in the downstream with hydrothermal manifestations. We propose a new isotopic approach by combining δ7Li and δ13CDIC analyses in river catchment waters. A first method has been applied to volcanic tropical environments with Li concentrations correlated to δ13CDIC (Rad et al., 2011). Here, we have completed this approach by lithium isotopes. Water samples were collected during several field trips. Our results show a large variation in Li isotopes and C isotopes within the catchment from 3.3 ‰ to 30.3 ‰ and from -17.9‰ to -3.5‰, respectively. Chemical weathering rates linearly increase from upstream to downstream over 400km distance, whereas Li isotope signatures decrease and global C signature increases. This is due to low water-rock interaction dominated in upstream, whereas the downstream is punctually impacted by hydrothermalism. From Li and C isotopes, our results show 4 groups reflecting different chemical weathering processes: the first group with high fractionation of Li and C, for Li, the heavy lithium partitioned into surface waters, leaving lighter lithium behind in the weathered products, the signature of C is mainly due to organic matter or partially due to biochemical interaction with assimilation of CO2 by microorganism. The second group involves atmospheric equilibrium with CO2 degassing with organic origin or "cold" CO2 degassing with important fraction of Li. The third group present high fractionation of C, reflecting presence of superficial C with organic origin, with low fractionation of Li underling the hydrothermalism impact. Finally a fourth group with low fractionation mainly due to high temperature water-rock interaction. Therefore, the combination of the two tracers, Li and C isotopes, offers a powerful tool to discriminate chemical weathering processes from sources of alteration during water-rock interactions under multi-lithology terrains.
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Dates and versions

hal-00727365 , version 1 (03-09-2012)


  • HAL Id : hal-00727365 , version 1


Sétareh Rad, Karine Rivé, N. Assayag, Marie Christine Dictor, Manuel Garcin. Lithium and carbon isotopes in river catchment: combined tracers to constrain chemical weathering processes. 2012 AGU fall meeting, Dec 2012, San Francisco, United States. pp.1. ⟨hal-00727365⟩
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