Titanium transport and isotopic fractionation in the Critical Zone

Aarons, Sarah M.; Dauphas, Nicolas; Greber, Nicolas D.; Roskosz, Mathieu; Bouchez, Julien; Carley, Tamara; Liu, Xiao-Ming; Rudnick, Roberta L.; Gaillardet, Jérôme (2023). Titanium transport and isotopic fractionation in the Critical Zone. Geochimica et cosmochimica acta, 352, pp. 175-193. Elsevier Science 10.1016/j.gca.2023.05.008

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Stable Ti isotopes have been applied in the detrital sediment record to reconstruct the bulk composition of Earth’s continental crust due to the relationship between magmatic differentiation and Ti isotopic compositions. However, no study has systematically evaluated the influence of provenance, physical, and chemical weathering on the composition of sediments relative to the protolith they originated from. To test the influence of these processes on Ti isotopic compositions we investigate the Ti isotope composition of 82 surface samples including loess, volcaniclastic rocks, river sediment, and two separate weathering profiles through igneous rocks, collected from a broad geographical area and a range of environmental conditions. Limited but significant Ti isotope fractionation exists in samples subjected to extreme chemical weathering processes, potentially as a result of elemental mobilization. For example, the δ49Ti isotopic composition of bauxites developed on Columbia River basalt varies by up to 0.1‰, becoming isotopically heavier with increasing weathering intensity. However, negligible variation in δ49Ti was found in a second profile of saprolites developed on weathered diabase. Titanium isotope variations in loess do not correlate with chemical weathering intensity or size sorting, but may instead be related to the provenance of the sediment. We find that the δ49Ti of Amazon River sediments is correlated with the Al/Zr ratio, indicating that δ49Ti is impacted by sediment sorting. At our study sites, the river averaged offset between the isotopic composition of the bedload and the suspended sediment fraction is 0.051‰, with the largest offset being + 0.116‰. Our data suggest that during chemical weathering, heavy Ti isotopes are preferentially incorporated into secondary minerals producing higher δ49Ti in intensely weathered soils. During fluvial transport, the Ti isotopic composition of fine-grained sediment is heavier than that of its coarser counterpart. Crustal protolith composition and sorting during transport and sedimentation have a stronger effect on the Ti isotopic composition than chemical weathering. Our results have implications for studies that utilize the Ti elemental concentration to calculate relative enrichment or depletion during chemical weathering and physical transport processes in the Critical Zone and for studies using Ti isotopes in terrigenous sediments to infer the composition of their provenance.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geological Sciences > Isotope Geology

UniBE Contributor:

Greber, Nicolas


500 Science > 550 Earth sciences & geology




Elsevier Science




Nicolas Greber

Date Deposited:

08 Jun 2023 08:09

Last Modified:

08 Jun 2023 08:09

Publisher DOI:






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