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Journal Article

Intense pyrite formation under low-sulfate conditions in the Achterwasser lagoon, SW Baltic Sea


Böttcher,  M. E.
Department of Biogeochemistry, Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology, Max Planck Society;

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Neumann, T., Rausch, N., Leipe, T., Dellwig, O., Berner, Z., & Böttcher, M. E. (2005). Intense pyrite formation under low-sulfate conditions in the Achterwasser lagoon, SW Baltic Sea. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, 69(14), 3619-3630.

Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0001-D01B-6
In comparison to similar low-sulfate coastal environments with anoxic-sulfidic sediments, the Achterwasser lagoon, which is part of the Oder estuary in the SW Baltic Sea, reveals unexpectedly high pyrite concentrations of up to 7.5 wt%. Pyrite occurs mainly as framboidal grains variable in size with diameters between 1 and 20 μm. Pyritization is not uniform down to the investigated sediment depth of 50 cm. The consumption of reactive-Fe is most efficient in the upper 20 cm of the sediment column, leading to degrees of pyritization (DOP) as high as 80 to 95%. Sediment accumulation in the Achterwasser takes place in high productivity waters. The content of organic carbon reaches values of up to 10 wt%, indicating that pyrite formation is not limited by the availability of organic matter. Although dissolved sulfate concentration is relatively low (<2 mmol/L) in the Achterwasser, the presence of H2S in the pore water suggests that sulfate is unlikely to limit pyrite authigenesis. The lack of free Fe(II) in the pore waters combined with the possibility of a very efficient transformation of Fe-monosulfides to pyrite near the sediment/water interface suggests that pyrite formation is rather controlled by (i) the availability of reactive-Fe, which limits the FeS formation, and by (ii) the availability of an oxidant, which limits the transformation of FeS into pyrite. The ultimate source for reactive-Fe is the river Oder, which provides a high portion of reactive-Fe (∼65% of the total-Fe) in the form of suspended particulate matter. The surficial sediments of the Achterwasser are reduced, but are subject to oxidation from the overlying water by resuspension. Oxidation of the sediments produces sulfur species with oxidation states intermediate between sulfide and sulfate (e.g., thiosulfate and polysulfides), which transform FeS to FeS2 at a significant rate. This process of FeS-recycling is suggested to be responsible for the formation of pyrite in high concentrations near the sediment surface, with DOP values between 80 and 95% even under low sulfate conditions. A postdepositional sulfidization takes place in the deeper part of the sediment column, at ∼22 cm depth, where the downward diffusion of H2S is balanced by the upward migration of Fe(II). The vertical fluctuation of the diffusion front intensifies the pyritization of sediments. We suggest that the processes described may occur preferentially in shallow water lagoons with average net-sedimentation rates close to zero. Such environments are prone to surficial sediment resuspension, initiating oxidation of Fe-sulfides near the sediment/water interface. Subsequent FeS2 formation as well as postdepositional sulfidization leads to a major pyrite spike at depth within the sediment profile.