Abiotic synthesis of graphite in hydrothermal vents


Deciphering the origin, age, and composition of deep marine organic carbon remains a challenge in understanding the dynamics of the marine carbon cycle. In particular, the composition of aged organic carbon and what allows its persistence in the deep ocean and in sediment is unresolved. Here, we observe that both high and low temperature hydrothermal vents at the 9 degrees 50' N; 104 degrees 17.5 W East Pacific Rise (EPR) vent field are a source for (sub) micron-sized graphite particles. We demonstrate that commonly applied analytical techniques for quantification of organic carbon detect graphite. These analyses thereby classify graphite as either dissolved or particulate organic carbon, depending on the particle size and filtration method, and overlook its relevance as a carbon source to the deep ocean. Settling velocity calculations indicate the potential for these (sub)micron particles to become entrained in the buoyant plume and distributed far from the vent fields. Thus, our observations provide direct evidence for hydrothermal vents acting as a source of old carbon to the deep ocean.