Professor of Oceanography Emeritus

Research Interests

  • Chemistry of methane seeps
  • Geochemistry of interstitial waters in marine sediments


  • B.S., University of Pretoria, South Africa
  • Ph.D., University of Manitoba, Canada
  • M.S., University of Manitoba, Canada

Recent Publications

Luo, M, Algeo TJ, Tong H, Gieskes J, Chen L, Shi X, Chen D.  2017.  More reducing bottom-water redox conditions during the Last Glacial Maximum in the southern Challenger Deep (Mariana Trench, western Pacific) driven by enhanced productivity. Deep Sea Research Part II: Topical Studies in Oceanography. Abstract

The modern southern Mariana Trench is characterized by oligotrophic surface waters, resulting in low primary productivity and well-oxygenated bottom waters. This study investigates changes in the redox conditions of bottom waters in the southern Mariana Trench during the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) and their potential causes. We measured major, trace, and rare earth elements (REE) in three gravity cores (GC03, GC04, and GC05) and one box core (BC11) retrieved from the southern Challenger Deep at water depths from 5289 to 7118 m. The upper sediment layers of both GC05 and BC11 are dominated by valve fragments of the giant diatom Ethmodiscus rex, forming laminated diatom mats (LDMs). 14C-AMS dates of bulk organic matter show that the LDMs accumulated between 18.4 and 21.8 kyr B.P., corresponding to the LGM. Modest enrichments of U and Mo along with weak or absent Ce anomalies in the LDM point to suboxic conditions during the LGM. In contrast, non-LDM samples exhibit little to no enrichment of redox-sensitive elements as well as negative Ce anomalies, indicating deposition under oxic bottom-water conditions. The Ce anomalies are considered valid proxies for bottom-water redox conditions because REE signatures were acquired in the early diagenetic environment, as indicated by strong P-REE correlations and middle-REE enrichment associated with early diagenetic cycling of Fe-Mn oxyhydroxides in the sediment column followed by capture of the REE signal by biogenic and/or authigenic apatite. We postulate that the more reducing bottom-water conditions during the LGM were linked to increased primary productivity induced by enhanced Asian dust input. As shown in earlier studies, the increased primary productivity associated with Ethmodiscus rex blooms in the eastern Philippine Sea played a significant role in capturing atmospheric CO2 during the LGM. Consequently, the magnitude of atmospheric CO2 sequestration by giant diatom blooms during the LGM may have been greater than previously envisaged.

Luo, M, Gieskes J, Chen L, Shi X, Chen D.  2017.  Provenances, distribution, and accumulation of organic matter in the southern Mariana Trench rim and slope: Implication for carbon cycle and burial in hadal trenches. Marine Geology. 386:98-106. Abstract

It is generally accepted that organic matter content and accumulation rate at the seafloor attenuate with increasing water depth. However, hadal trenches, which represent the deepest portion of the hydrosphere on Earth, do not abide by this universal rule. It has been speculated that hadal trenches would serve as organic matter depocenters, where bacteria-mediated organic matter degradation intensifies. Here we examine the contents of total organic carbon (TOC) and total nitrogen (TN), as well as the δ13C values of TOC in three gravity cores, two box cores, and three grab samples with water depth from 4900 to 7118 m, in order to reveal the provenances of organic matter, spatial distribution and accumulation rates of particulate organic carbon (POC) in the southern Mariana Trench rim and slope. Although the deepest area was not sampled, trench rim and slope is also of importance in terms of transportation and accumulation processes of organic matter. A vast majority of the sediment samples have bulk TOC/TN molar ratios and δ13C values of TOC ranging from 4.2 to 11 and from − 21.8 to − 18.9‰, respectively, implying that the organic matter was primarily sourced from marine algae. Two exceptions have been found at 101 cm and 201 cm depths of core GC05 with a possible input of terrestrial material suggested by an abrupt increase in TOC contents and TOC/TN molar ratios accompanied by marked decreases in δ13C values of TOC. Moreover, TOC contents in surface sediments basically increased with water depth. Based on the published excess 210Pb data and by assuming a simplified one-dimensional sediment loading despite of frequent occurrences of mass wasting transports in hadal trenches, the sedimentation rate in the southern Challenger Deep (6037 m) was estimated to be 0.02 cm yr− 1. This much higher sedimentation rate compared to the globally averaged values in deep ocean sediments coupled with the trend of increasing in TOC contents with water depth may serve as evidence for the lateral transport of sediment particles induced by the funnel-like topography and localized current dynamics within the trench. The average POC accumulation rate within the southern Challenger Deep roughly amounts to 1.5 × 10− 5 g cm− 2 yr− 1, equivalent to about a seventh of the globally averaged POC accumulation rate in deep-ocean seafloor. To our knowledge, POC accumulation in hadal trenches has been quantified for the first time, and we highlight that organic matter degradation in deep hadal trenches should not be neglected and may represent a significant component of the global carbon cycle.

Luo, M, Dale AW, Wallmann K, Hensen C, Gieskes J, Yan W, Chen D.  2015.  Estimating the time of pockmark formation in the SW Xisha Uplift (South China Sea) using reaction-transport modeling. Marine Geology. 364:21-31. Abstract

Carbon cycling and fluid seepage in marine sediments over the late Quaternary were investigated at a now-extinct pockmark located in a mega-pockmark field in the SW Xisha Uplift (NW South China Sea). Measured particulate organic carbon (POC) content, and porewater sulfate (SO42 −), dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) concentrations and δ34S-SO42 − distributions were used to constrain a non-steady-state reaction-transport model and quantify POC mineralization rates as well as estimate the time when fluid flow ceased at the investigated pockmark. An increase in POC content and δ34S-SO42 − and a decrease in sulfate concentrations in the upper ca. 2 m at the pockmark and a reference core implied an increase in the flux and reactivity of organic matter during the early Holocene around 10 kyr B. P. caused by enhanced primary productivity during the strengthened southwestern summer monsoon. These features were simulated with the model assuming a Holocene increase in POC flux and reactivity. Subsequently, starting from an initial condition reminiscent of a modern active cold seep (Hydrate Ridge), hindcast simulations showed that fluid seepage at the pockmark ceased ca. 39 kyr ago. This corresponds to a relative sea level high-stand, which is believed to be associated with gas hydrate stabilization. The non-steady-state model presented in this contribution can also be used to constrain the time when fluid seepage ceased at other presently extinct cold seeps when suitable sediment and porewater data are available.