Sedimentary pyrite $δ$34S differs from porewater sulfide in Santa Barbara Basin: Proposed role of organic sulfur

TitleSedimentary pyrite $δ$34S differs from porewater sulfide in Santa Barbara Basin: Proposed role of organic sulfur
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2016
AuthorsRaven, MR, Sessions, AL, Fischer, WW, Adkins, JF
JournalGeochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
KeywordsROV Jason (Remotely Operated Vehicle)

Santa Barbara Basin sediments host a complex network of abiotic and metabolic chemical reactions that knit together the carbon, sulfur, and iron cycles. From a 2.1-m sediment core collected in the center of the basin, we present high-resolution profiles of the concentrations and isotopic compositions of all the major species in this system: sulfate, sulfide (∑H2S), elemental sulfur (S0), pyrite, extractable organic sulfur (OS), proto-kerogen S, total organic and dissolved inorganic carbon, and total and reducible iron. Below 10 cm depth, the core is characterized by low apparent sulfate reduction rates ({\textless}0.01 mM/yr) except near the sulfate-methane transition zone. Surprisingly, pyrite forming in shallow sediments is ∼30‰ more 34S-depleted than coexisting ∑H2S in porewater. S0 has the same strongly 34S-depleted composition as pyrite where it forms near the sediment–water interface, though not at depth. This pattern is not easily explained by conventional hypotheses in which sedimentary pyrite derives from abiotic reactions with porewater ∑H2S or from the products of S0 disproportionation. Instead, we propose that pyrite formation in this environment occurs within sulfate reducing microbial aggregates or biofilms, where it reflects the isotopic composition of the immediate products of bacterial sulfate reduction. Porewater ∑H2S in Santa Barbara Basin may be more 34S-enriched than pyrite due to equilibration with relatively 34S-enriched OS. The difference between OS and pyrite $δ$34S values would then reflect the balance between microbial sulfide formation and the abundance of exchangeable OS. Both OS and pyrite $δ$34S records thus have the potential to provide valuable information about biogeochemical cycles and redox structure in sedimentary paleoenvironments.