Sedimentary pyrite sulfur isotope compositions preserve signatures of the surface microbial mat environment in sediments underlying low-oxygen cyanobacterial mats

Maya L. Gomes, Judith M. Klatt, Gregory J. Dick, Sharon L. Grim, Kathryn I. Rico, Matthew Medina, Wiebke Ziebis, Lauren Kinsman-Costello, Nathan D. Sheldon, David A. Fike

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations

Abstract

The sedimentary pyrite sulfur isotope (δ34S) record is an archive of ancient microbial sulfur cycling and environmental conditions. Interpretations of pyrite δ34S signatures in sediments deposited in microbial mat ecosystems are based on studies of modern microbial mat porewater sulfide δ34S geochemistry. Pyrite δ34S values often capture δ34S signatures of porewater sulfide at the location of pyrite formation. However, microbial mats are dynamic environments in which biogeochemical cycling shifts vertically on diurnal cycles. Therefore, there is a need to study how the location of pyrite formation impacts pyrite δ34S patterns in these dynamic systems. Here, we present diurnal porewater sulfide δ34S trends and δ34S values of pyrite and iron monosulfides from Middle Island Sinkhole, Lake Huron. The sediment–water interface of this sinkhole hosts a low-oxygen cyanobacterial mat ecosystem, which serves as a useful location to explore preservation of sedimentary pyrite δ34S signatures in early Earth environments. Porewater sulfide δ34S values vary by up to ~25‰ throughout the day due to light-driven changes in surface microbial community activity that propagate downwards, affecting porewater geochemistry as deep as 7.5 cm in the sediment. Progressive consumption of the sulfate reservoir drives δ34S variability, instead of variations in average cell-specific sulfate reduction rates and/or sulfide oxidation at different depths in the sediment. The δ34S values of pyrite are similar to porewater sulfide δ34S values near the mat surface. We suggest that oxidative sulfur cycling and other microbial activity promote pyrite formation in and immediately adjacent to the microbial mat and that iron geochemistry limits further pyrite formation with depth in the sediment. These results imply that primary δ34S signatures of pyrite deposited in organic-rich, iron-poor microbial mat environments capture information about microbial sulfur cycling and environmental conditions at the mat surface and are only minimally affected by deeper sedimentary processes during early diagenesis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)60-78
Number of pages19
JournalGeobiology
Volume20
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 2022

Keywords

  • geomicrobiology
  • microbial mats
  • middle island sinkhole
  • pyrite
  • sulfur isotopes

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