The Li isotope composition of modern biogenic carbonates
Abstract:The lithium stable isotope composition (δ7Li) of sedimentary carbonates has great potential to unravel weathering rates and intensity in the past, with implications for understanding the carbon cycle over geologic time. However, so far very little is known about the potential influence of fractionation of the stable Li isotope composition of biogenic carbonates. Here, we investigate the δ7Li of various organisms (particularly mollusks, echinoderms and brachiopods) abundant in the Phanerozoic record, in order to understand which geologic archives might provide the best targets for reconstructing past seawater composition. The range of measured samples includes (i) modern calcite and aragonite shells from variable natural environments, (ii) shells from organisms grown under controlled conditions (temperature, salinity, pCO2), and (iii) fossil shells from a range of species collected from Miocene deposits. When possible, both the inner and outer layers of bivalves were micro-sampled to assess the intra-shell heterogeneity.
For calcitic shells, the measured δ7Li of bivalve species range from +32 to +41‰ and is systematically enriched in the heavy isotope relative to seawater (31 ‰) and to inorganic calcite, which is characterized by Δ7Licalcite–seawater = −2 to −5‰ . The Li isotope composition of aragonitic bivalves, ranging from +16 to +22‰, is slightly fractionated to both high and low δ7Li relative to inorganic aragonite. The largest intra-shell Li isotope variability is observed for mixed calcite-aragonite shells (more than 20‰) whereas in single mineralogy shells, intra-shell δ7Li variability is generally less than 3‰. Overall, these results suggest a strong influence of vital effects on Li isotopes during bio-calcification of bivalve shells. On the contrary, measured brachiopods systematically exhibit fractionation that is very similar to inorganic calcite, with a mean δ7Li of 27.0±1.5‰, suggesting that brachiopods may provide good targets for future work aiming to reconstruct the Li isotope composition seawater.