Biogeochemical Cycling of Fe, S, C, N, and Mo in the 3.2 Ga ocean: Constraints from DXCL-DP Black Shales from Pilbara, Western Australia
Monday, 15 December 2014
Records of geochemical cycling of bio-essential, redox-sensitive elements have keys to decipher mysteries of the co-evolution of Earth and life. To obtain insight into biogeochemical cycling of those elements and early evolution of microbial biosphere from high-quality samples, we drilled through Mesoarchean strata in coastal Pilbara (Dixon Island-Cleaverville Drilling Project, see Yamaguchi et al., 2009; Kiyokawa et al., 2012), and obtained 3.2 Ga old drillcores (CL1, CL2, and DX) of sulfide-rich black shales in the Cleaverville Group, Pilbara Supergroup. We conducted a systematic geochemical study involving sequential extractions of Fe, S, C, and N for phase-dependent contents (e.g., pyrite-Fe, reactive-Fe, highly reactive-Fe, unreactive-Fe, pyrite-S, sulfate-S, organic-S, elemental-S, Corg, Ccarb, Norg, and Nclay) and their stable isotope compositions, micro FT-IR and laser Raman spectroscopy for extracted kerogen, in addition to major and trace (redox-sensitive; e.g., Mo) element analysis, for >100 samples. Here we integrate our recent multidisciplinary investigations into the redox state of ocean and nature of microbial biosphere in the ocean 3.2 Ga ago. All of the obtained data are very difficult to explain only by geochemical processes in strictly anoxic environments, where both atmosphere and oceans were completely anoxic, like an environment before the inferred “Great Oxidation Event” when pO2 was lower than 0.00001 PAL (e.g., Holland, 1994). Our extensive data set consistently suggests that oxygenic photosynthesis, bacterial sulfate reduction, and microbially mediated redox-cycling of nitrogen, possibly involving denitrification and N2-fixation, are very likely to have been operating, and may be used as a strong evidence for at least local and temporal existence of oxidized environment as far back as 3.2 Ga ago. Modern-style biogeochemical cycling of Fe, S, C, N, and Mo has been operating since then. The atmosphere-hydrosphere system 3.2 Ga ago would have been sufficiently oxidized to allow redox-cycling of elements during deposition of the sediments, ~800 Ma earlier than commonly thought. Our suggestions have far-reaching and astrobiological implications for earlier evolution of the surface environment, especially redox state, and marine microbial biosphere.