The regulation of atmospheric oxygen levels (pO2) occurs on million-year timescales and is effected by modulation of sedimentary organic carbon burial and weathering rates1,2. Until recently it was believed that these processes were dominated by material produced by marine organisms; now it appears that terrestrial plants contribute a significant amount of organic detritus to marine sediments. Here I explore the possibility of a coupling between the rates of terrigenous and marine sedimentary organic carbon burial (BOC) that might stabilize PO2 at or near the present atmospheric level. The coupling involves fire as a means to transfer phosphorus, the nutrient that limits global BOC3,4 and thus global oxygen production rates, from terrestrial to marine environments.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes