Metal isotopes and carbonate proxy archives: Model-based perspectives on diagenesis
Abstract:Metal isotopes are novel tools, and have expanded the geochemical toolbox for elucidating the functioning of the Earth over various time scales. Carbonate-based stable isotope proxies now extend well beyond the traditional major elements (C and O) to include Ca, as well as trace elements such as Sr, S, Mg, B, Li, Cd, and U. Such trace isotopic proxies may contain invaluable information about the Earth system in the past, but can be susceptible to diagenetic alteration over long time scales. It is therefore critical that diagenetic effects are understood and can be recognized in ancient rocks. The extent of alteration depends on reaction rate and advection velocity in the sedimentary section, and elemental partitioning and isotopic effects associated with diagenesis. Numerical approaches, such as reactive transport models, are extremely useful tools for constraining such variables, and for testing hypotheses related to alteration of proxy records.
Reactive transport models allow for constraints on calcite recrystallization rates in natural systems; data from ODP Sites 807A, 1170A, 1171A, and 806B suggest rapid recrystallization in relatively young sediments, as well as a Ca isotopic fractionation factor (α) associated with calcite recrystallization close to 1 (Δ=0). While the former is critical for addressing the fidelity and accuracy of a variety of geochemical proxies, the latter is distinctly different from that associated with the formation of carbonates in the surface ocean (Δ~ -1.35‰), suggesting considerable isotopic leverage to alter Ca isotopes during diagenesis. While Ca isotopes are generally well buffered in carbonate-rich sediments, this leverage to alter may be expressed as a reduction in the amplitude of geochemical variability in the solid or as a result of reactions near the sediment-seawater interface (as seen at ODP Site 1221 associated with chemical burndown during the PETM). Further, the Ca and Mg isotopic compositions of shallow water carbonates at ODP Site 1196A suggest recognizeable diagenetic trends that can be explained using simple numerical models, and offer constraints on the Mg partition coefficient and isotopic fractionation factors associated with dolomitization and recrystallization.