Detangling the Web of Sulfur Metabolisms in Santa Barbara Basin with High-Resolution δ34S and Genomic Profiles
Friday, 19 December 2014
Sulfur metabolisms are major drivers of organic matter remineralization and microbial growth in marine sediments. Sulfur-isotope systematics are particularly powerful for interrogating metabolic processes in these systems due to the large sulfur-isotope fractionations associated with bacterial sulfate reduction (BSR) and some other metabolic reactions. Recent analytical advancements have made it possible to measure δ34S values of very small samples (>50 nmol), including aqueous sulfate and sulfide as well as pyrite, elemental sulfur, and multiple fractions of sedimentary organic matter. We have generated comprehensive 2.5 cm-resolution depth profiles of these sulfur pools over a 2-m core from Santa Barbara Basin, a sub-oxic environment off the California coast. We find that the porewater sulfide δ34S values appear to be strongly influenced by anaerobic sulfide oxidation and sulfur disproportionation in addition to BSR. These sulfur-isotope signals can be tracked over the course of several thousand years of sediment diagenesis, moving from the oxic-anoxic transition at the sediment-water interface to the sulfate-methane transition zone in deeper sediments. Shifts in δ34S relationships among sulfur pools correlate with changes in microbial community composition as shown in TAG genomic data, which supports the existence of the metabolisms indicated by δ34S profiles. Our results suggest that the existence and activity of multiple microbial communities and coexisting sulfur metabolisms have the potential to be recorded in sedimentary δ34S records.