The Oxford Cave & Carbonate Lab

Much of what we know about past climate is reconstructed by measurement of the chemistry of natural carbonate minerals. In the oceans, we rely on corals, foraminifera, and molluscs. In the terrestrial environment we rely on lake and cave carbonates. In all cases, interpretation of carbonate geochemistry as proxies for past climate change requires understanding of the controls on element or isotope incorporation into the carbonate. Such understanding is, however, frequently incomplete and, in the case of recently investigated isotopes systems, completely missing.

The Oxford Cave is a cave-analogue setup for synthetic calcite growth. The setup closely mimics natural processes (e.g. precipitation driven by CO2-degassing, low ionic strength solution, thin solution film) but with a tight control on growth conditions (temperature, pCO2, drip rate, calcite saturation index and the compostion of the initial solution).

Further details of the experimental setup and results are available in Day and Henderson 2011 and Reynard, Day and Henderson 2011.


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The carbonate system in seawater is an important reservoir in the global carbon cycle. Substantial research has investigated the biogeochemical response of the surface ocean to acidification, partly in response to recent concern for  acidification due to anthropogenic emission. Little is known of the response to increases in pH.

Working with the Oxford Geoengineering Programme,  we are conducting laboratory experiments to assess ocean geochemistry changes due to alkalinity addition.

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