Testing the global significance of the sulfur isotope record of the ca. 2.0 Ga Zaonega Formation: A micro-scale S isotope investigation

K. Paiste, D. A. Fike, K. Kirsimäe, C. Jones, A. Lepland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


The Paleoproterozoic metasedimentary rocks of the Zaonega Formation (Onega Basin, NW Russia) are important archives of inferred global environmental change following the initial oxygenation of the Earth's atmosphere and oceans. However, the geochemical signals preserved in these exceptionally organic-and pyrite-rich metasedimentary rocks and their environmental meaning remain contested. In particular, the Zaonega Formation's unusually high pyrite sulfur isotope ratios (δ34S) have been explained by either global or local forcings acting on sulfur cycling processes. We tested former interpretations of the Zaonega Formation's sedimentary pyrite record by integrating bulk and micro-scale δ34S analysis to discriminate the isotopic signatures of different generations of pyrite and determine the underlying mechanisms contributing to δ34S variability. We show that the prolonged genesis of pyrite occurred via multiple stages and included precipitation from early diagenetic fluids, organic matter pyritization, and late-stage alteration fluids. Our results demonstrate that early-stage pyrite typically carries more variable and lower δ34S values than late-stage pyrite. Although the early pyrite captures pore water S isotope signatures least evolved from the seawater, their contribution to the bulk δ34S results can be dwarfed by the greater volume of late-stage coarse pyrite. Consequently, determining the sequence of pyrite precipitation and δ34S characteristics of individual generations in any given sample are fundamental to interpreting bulk δ34S records. Our micro-scale results suggest that previous estimates based on bulk pyrite data (ca. 6 to 18‰) should not be related to the original seawater sulfate's isotopic composition. These results demonstrate that a thorough understanding of the geological context and mechanisms associated with S-cycling, and pyrite formation is necessary to interpret bulk δ34S records accurately.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)86-104
Number of pages19
JournalGeochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
StatePublished - Aug 15 2022


  • Paleoproterozoic
  • Pyrite
  • SIMS
  • Sulfur isotopes
  • Zaonega formation


Dive into the research topics of 'Testing the global significance of the sulfur isotope record of the ca. 2.0 Ga Zaonega Formation: A micro-scale S isotope investigation'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this