Precambrian Secular Evolution of Oceanic Nickel Concentrations: An Update

Friday, 19 December 2014: 3:10 PM
Kurt Konhauser1, Ernesto Pecoits1, Caroline Peacock2, Jamie Robbins1, Andreas Kappler3 and Stefan Lalonde4, (1)University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB, Canada, (2)University of Leeds, Leeds, United Kingdom, (3)University of Tübingen, Tübingen, Germany, (4)European Institute for Marine Studies, Plouzane, France
Iron formations (IF) preserve a history of Precambrian oceanic elemental abundance that can be exploited to address nutrient limitations on early biological productivity. In 2009 we reported that secular trends in IF Ni/Fe ratios record a reduced flux of Ni to the oceans ca. 2.7 billion years ago, which we attribute to decreased eruption of Ni-rich ultramafic rocks1. We determined that dissolved Ni concentrations may have reached ~400 nM throughout much of the Archean, but dropped below ~200 nM by 2.5 Ga and to modern day values (~9 nM) by ~550 Ma. As Ni is a key metal cofactor in several enzymes of methanogens, its decline would have stifled their activity in the ancient oceans and disrupted the supply of biogenic methane. Here we provide an updated compilation of Ni concentrations and Ni/Fe ratios in Precambrian iron formations based on a greatly expanded (>3 fold) dataset. We frame our rock record compilation in the context of new experiments examining the partitioning and mobility of Ni during simulated diagenesis of Ni-doped iron formation mineral precursors, as well as a fresh look at Ni-Fe scaling relationships in IF vs. modern Fe-rich chemical sediments. While its potential effects on atmospheric oxygenation remains to be fully resolved2, our new results reaffirm the Paleoproterozoic Ni famine, whereby the enzymatic reliance of methanogens on a diminishing supply of volcanic Ni links mantle cooling to the trajectory of Earth surface biogeochemical evolution.
  1. Konhauser KO, et al. (2009) Oceanic nickel depletion and a methanogen famine before the Great Oxidation Event. Nature 458: 750–753.
  2. Kasting JE (2013) What caused the rise of atmospheric O2? Chemical Geology 362: 13-25.