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      Chromium isotope heterogeneity on a modern carbonate platform

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      Chemical Geology
      Elsevier BV

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          Atmospheric oxygenation three billion years ago.

          It is widely assumed that atmospheric oxygen concentrations remained persistently low (less than 10(-5) times present levels) for about the first 2 billion years of Earth's history. The first long-term oxygenation of the atmosphere is thought to have taken place around 2.3 billion years ago, during the Great Oxidation Event. Geochemical indications of transient atmospheric oxygenation, however, date back to 2.6-2.7 billion years ago. Here we examine the distribution of chromium isotopes and redox-sensitive metals in the approximately 3-billion-year-old Nsuze palaeosol and in the near-contemporaneous Ijzermyn iron formation from the Pongola Supergroup, South Africa. We find extensive mobilization of redox-sensitive elements through oxidative weathering. Furthermore, using our data we compute a best minimum estimate for atmospheric oxygen concentrations at that time of 3 × 10(-4) times present levels. Overall, our findings suggest that there were appreciable levels of atmospheric oxygen about 3 billion years ago, more than 600 million years before the Great Oxidation Event and some 300-400 million years earlier than previous indications for Earth surface oxygenation.
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            Proterozoic ocean redox and biogeochemical stasis.

            The partial pressure of oxygen in Earth's atmosphere has increased dramatically through time, and this increase is thought to have occurred in two rapid steps at both ends of the Proterozoic Eon (∼2.5-0.543 Ga). However, the trajectory and mechanisms of Earth's oxygenation are still poorly constrained, and little is known regarding attendant changes in ocean ventilation and seafloor redox. We have a particularly poor understanding of ocean chemistry during the mid-Proterozoic (∼1.8-0.8 Ga). Given the coupling between redox-sensitive trace element cycles and planktonic productivity, various models for mid-Proterozoic ocean chemistry imply different effects on the biogeochemical cycling of major and trace nutrients, with potential ecological constraints on emerging eukaryotic life. Here, we exploit the differing redox behavior of molybdenum and chromium to provide constraints on seafloor redox evolution by coupling a large database of sedimentary metal enrichments to a mass balance model that includes spatially variant metal burial rates. We find that the metal enrichment record implies a Proterozoic deep ocean characterized by pervasive anoxia relative to the Phanerozoic (at least ∼30-40% of modern seafloor area) but a relatively small extent of euxinic (anoxic and sulfidic) seafloor (less than ∼1-10% of modern seafloor area). Our model suggests that the oceanic Mo reservoir is extremely sensitive to perturbations in the extent of sulfidic seafloor and that the record of Mo and chromium enrichments through time is consistent with the possibility of a Mo-N colimited marine biosphere during many periods of Earth's history.
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              Fluctuations in Precambrian atmospheric oxygenation recorded by chromium isotopes.

              Geochemical data suggest that oxygenation of the Earth's atmosphere occurred in two broad steps. The first rise in atmospheric oxygen is thought to have occurred between approximately 2.45 and 2.2 Gyr ago, leading to a significant increase in atmospheric oxygen concentrations and concomitant oxygenation of the shallow surface ocean. The second increase in atmospheric oxygen appears to have taken place in distinct stages during the late Neoproterozoic era ( approximately 800-542 Myr ago), ultimately leading to oxygenation of the deep ocean approximately 580 Myr ago, but details of the evolution of atmospheric oxygenation remain uncertain. Here we use chromium (Cr) stable isotopes from banded iron formations (BIFs) to track the presence of Cr(VI) in Precambrian oceans, providing a time-resolved picture of the oxygenation history of the Earth's atmosphere-hydrosphere system. The geochemical behaviour of Cr is highly sensitive to the redox state of the surface environment because oxidative weathering processes produce the oxidized hexavalent [Cr(VI)] form. Oxidation of reduced trivalent [Cr(III)] chromium on land is accompanied by an isotopic fractionation, leading to enrichment of the mobile hexavalent form in the heavier isotope. Our fractionated Cr isotope data indicate the accumulation of Cr(VI) in ocean surface waters approximately 2.8 to 2.6 Gyr ago and a likely transient elevation in atmospheric and surface ocean oxygenation before the first great rise of oxygen 2.45-2.2 Gyr ago (the Great Oxidation Event). In approximately 1.88-Gyr-old BIFs we find that Cr isotopes are not fractionated, indicating a decline in atmospheric oxygen. Our findings suggest that the Great Oxidation Event did not lead to a unidirectional stepwise increase in atmospheric oxygen. In the late Neoproterozoic, we observe strong positive fractionations in Cr isotopes (delta(53)Cr up to +4.9 per thousand), providing independent support for increased surface oxygenation at that time, which may have stimulated rapid evolution of macroscopic multicellular life.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Chemical Geology
                Chemical Geology
                Elsevier BV
                00092541
                July 2021
                July 2021
                : 573
                : 120227
                Article
                10.1016/j.chemgeo.2021.120227
                1b0996c6-bbef-41d0-97aa-146753e79394
                © 2021

                https://www.elsevier.com/tdm/userlicense/1.0/

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