Insights into Paleogene biogeochemistry from coupled carbon and sulfur isotopes in foraminiferal calcite.
Abstract:The Paleogene witnessed large-scale environmental changes, including the beginning of long-term Cenozoic cooling. The carbon isotope composition of foraminiferal calcite suggests a major reorganization of the carbon cycle over the Paleogene, with enhanced organic carbon burial in the Paleocene, and subsequent oxidation of this organic carbon or increased volcanism throughout the Eocene. The sulfur cycle is linked to the carbon cycle via the breakdown of organic carbon during bacterial sulfate reduction. Over geological time, carbon and sulfur isotopic shifts are often coupled due to enhanced pyrite burial being coupled to enhanced organic carbon burial, and enhanced pyrite weathering being coupled to enhanced organic carbon weathering. However, over the Paleogene, carbon and sulfur isotopes are fully decoupled, with the sulfur isotope record showing only one major shift in the early Eocene, after most of the carbon isotope variability is complete. One complication of interpreting the evolution of the sulfur cycle over the Cenozoic, is the fact that the mineral proxies used (typically barite) may not be temporally coincident with those used to reconstruct the carbon cycle (typically carbonate). Furthermore, these minerals are preserved in different locations, and therefore often must be extracted from different sediment cores in different ocean basins, leading to age-model uncertainty when the records are merged. To properly ascertain the phasing between early Cenozoic changes in the carbon cycle and the sulfur cycle, we would ideally measure all isotope records on the same mineral.
A new sulfur isotope analytical technique  has been optimised for foraminiferal calcite as a proxy for seawater δ34SSO4. The δ34SSO4 in foraminiferal calcite can then be tied to records of carbon isotopes from stratigraphically identical samples, resolving previous age model uncertainties. We present coupled carbon and sulfur isotope records from the same core over the early-to-mid Eocene, to better resolve the relative timing of changes in the carbon and sulfur cycles. We use a numerical model to explore the environmental changes necessary for the observed evolution in both the carbon and sulfur cycles.  Paris et al, 2013 Chemical Geology, 345, 50-61