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Anaerobic methane oxidation and a deep H2S sink generate isotopically heavy sulfides in Black Sea sediments

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Jørgensen,  B. B.
Department of Biogeochemistry, Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology, Max Planck Society;

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

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Neretin,  L. N.
Department of Biogeochemistry, Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology, Max Planck Society;

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Citation

Jørgensen, B. B., Böttcher, M. E., Luschen, H., Neretin, L. N., & Volkov, I. I. (2004). Anaerobic methane oxidation and a deep H2S sink generate isotopically heavy sulfides in Black Sea sediments. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, 68(9), 2095-2118.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0001-D14C-E
Abstract
The main terminal processes of organic matter mineralization in anoxic Black Sea sediments underlying the sulfidic water column are sulfate reduction in the upper 2–4 m and methanogenesis below the sulfate zone. The modern marine deposits comprise a ca. 1-m-deep layer of coccolith ooze and underlying sapropel, below which sea water ions penetrate deep down into the limnic Pleistocene deposits from >9000 years BP. Sulfate reduction rates have a subsurface maximum at the SO42−-CH4 transition where H2S reaches maximum concentration. Because of an excess of reactive iron in the deep limnic deposits, most of the methane-derived H2S is drawn downward to a sulfidization front where it reacts with Fe(III) and with Fe2+ diffusing up from below. The H2S-Fe2+ transition is marked by a black band of amorphous iron sulfide above which distinct horizons of greigite and pyrite formation occur. The pore water gradients respond dynamically to environmental changes in the Black Sea with relatively short time constants of ca. 500 yr for SO42− and 10 yr for H2S, whereas the FeS in the black band has taken ca. 3000 yr to accumulate. The dual diffusion interfaces of SO42−-CH4 and H2S-Fe2+ cause the trapping of isotopically heavy iron sulfide with δ34S = +15 to +33‰ at the sulfidization front. A diffusion model for sulfur isotopes shows that the SO42− diffusing downward into the SO42−-CH4 transition has an isotopic composition of +19‰, close to the +23‰ of H2S diffusing upward. These isotopic compositions are, however, very different from the porewater SO42− (+43‰) and H2S (−15‰) at the same depth. The model explains how methane-driven sulfate reduction combined with a deep H2S sink leads to isotopically heavy pyrite in a sediment open to diffusion. These results have general implications for the marine sulfur cycle and for the interpretation of sulfur isotopic data in modern sediments and in sedimentary rocks throughout earth’s history.