Friday, October 14, 2016

Were There Anoxic Oceans During the Cryogenian NeoProterozoic?


Hood et al


Emerging geochemical proxies have improved our understanding of the broad-scale history of Earth's oxygenation. However, paleoredox work does not always include extensive consideration of sample preservation and paleoenvironmental setting. This is particularly an issue with marine carbonates, which although being potentially ideal ocean redox archives, are commonly altered during diagenesis. Here we provide new insight into the robustness of uranium isotopes (238U/235U ratios: δ238U values) as paleoredox tracers by determining texture-specific δ238U values from a well-described Cryogenian (Balcanoona) reef complex in South Australia. We found high variability in δ238U values between different carbonate components, even within a single sample. Petrographically, the best-preserved components from the Balcanoona reef are marine cements, which have a mean δ238U value of –0.23‰, essentially unfractionated from riverine inputs. These values are interpreted as reflecting a marine system with widespread anoxic and iron-rich settings. Less-well-preserved phases have δ238U values spanning almost the entire extent of the documented isotopic range. This integrated petrographic-geochemical work demonstrates the need for petrographic analysis and careful sample selection on a case-by-case basis in future carbonate metal isotope geochemistry.

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