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A review of the stable isotope bio-geochemistry of the global silicon cycle and its associated trace elements


Jill N. Sutton


Damien Cardinal

Daniel J. Conley

Gregory F. de Souza

Jonathan R. Dean

Justin Dodd

Claudia Ehlert

Michael J. Ellwood

Patrick J. Frings

Patricia Grasse

Katharine Hendry

Panagiotis Michalopoulos


Silicon (Si) is the second most abundant element in the Earth’s crust and is an important nutrient in the ocean. The global Si cycle plays a critical role in regulating primary productivity and carbon cycling on the continents and in the oceans. Development of the analytical tools used to study the sources, sinks, and fluxes of the global Si cycle (e.g., elemental and stable isotope ratio data for Ge, Si, Zn, etc.) have recently led to major advances in our understanding of the mechanisms and processes that constrain the cycling of Si in the modern environment and in the past. Here, we provide background on the geochemical tools that are available for studying the Si cycle and highlight our current understanding of the marine, freshwater and terrestrial systems. We place emphasis on the geochemistry (e.g., Al/Si, Ge/Si, Zn/Si, d13C, d15N, d18O, d30Si) of dissolved and biogenic Si, present case studies, such as the Silicic Acid Leakage Hypothesis, and discuss challenges associated with the development of these environmental proxies for the global Si cycle. We also discuss how each system within the global Si cycle might change over time (i.e., sources, sinks, and processes) and the potential technical and conceptual limitations that need to be considered for future studies.


Sutton, J. N., André, L., Cardinal, D., Conley, D. J., de Souza, G. F., Dean, J. R., …Swann, G. E. (2018). A review of the stable isotope bio-geochemistry of the global silicon cycle and its associated trace elements. Frontiers in Earth Science, 5, Article 112.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Dec 21, 2017
Publication Date Jan 30, 2018
Deposit Date Jan 30, 2018
Publicly Available Date Jan 30, 2018
Journal Frontiers in Earth Science
Electronic ISSN 2296-6463
Publisher Frontiers Media
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 5
Article Number 112
Keywords C – N – O - Si isotopes; biogenic silica; element/Si ratios; biogeochemical cycles; silicon
Public URL
Publisher URL


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