Research ArticleGEOCHEMISTRY

Strong local, not global, controls on marine pyrite sulfur isotopes

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Science Advances  26 Feb 2021:
Vol. 7, no. 9, eabb7403
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abb7403


Understanding variation in the sulfur isotopic composition of sedimentary pyrite (δ34Spyr) is motivated by the key role of sulfur biogeochemistry in regulating Earth’s surface oxidation state. Until recently, the impact of local depositional conditions on δ34Spyr has remained underappreciated, and stratigraphic variations in δ34Spyr were interpreted mostly to reflect global changes in biogeochemical cycling. We present two coeval δ34Spyr records from shelf and basin settings in a single sedimentary system. Despite their proximity and contemporaneous deposition, these two records preserve radically different geochemical signals. Swings of ~65‰ in shelf δ34Spyr track short-term variations in local sedimentation and are completely absent from the abyssal record. In contrast, a long-term ~30‰ decrease in abyssal δ34Spyr reflects regional changes in ocean circulation and/or sustained pyrite formation. These results highlight strong local controls on δ34Spyr, calling for reevaluation of the current practice of using δ34Spyr stratigraphic variations to infer global changes in Earth’s surface environment.

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