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Examining pelagic carbonate-rich sediments as an archive for authigenic uranium and molybdenum isotopes using reductive cleaning and leaching experiments

Clarkson, Matthew O., Müsing, Kim, Andersen, Morten B. ORCID: and Vance, Derek 2020. Examining pelagic carbonate-rich sediments as an archive for authigenic uranium and molybdenum isotopes using reductive cleaning and leaching experiments. Chemical Geology 539 , 119412. 10.1016/j.chemgeo.2019.119412

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Novel metal isotope systematics are increasingly used to understand environmental change in geological history. On a global scale, the isotopic budgets of these metals respond to a range of environmental processes, allowing them to trace complex changes in the global climate system and carbon cycle. In particular, uranium (U) and molybdenum (Mo) isotopes are useful tools for quantifying the global extent of oceanic anoxia and euxinia respectively. The oceanic signature of these metals is recorded in contemporaneous marine sediments. Whilst, traditionally, organic-rich anoxic ‘black shales’ have provided a useful archive of these metals, carbonate sediments are increasingly being used as a passive recorder of ocean chemistry. The majority of published U and Mo isotope studies come from shallow water platform environments. By contrast, pelagic carbonate sediments are an under-explored archive for these metals, yet are widely available for important periods of Earth history. Despite their advantages, carbonates are a complex archive, containing multiple ‘contaminant’ components such as Mn-oxides, organic matter and detrital minerals. Each of these phases can have different metal concentrations and isotopic signatures, giving the potential to distort or bias the true oceanic signature recorded by the carbonate. Reductive cleaning procedures and selective leaching protocols can be used to avoid these contaminant phases, and are tested here on modern and ancient samples to judge their efficacy in isolating a ‘carbonate-bound fraction’. To this end, leaching experiments were performed using different concentration acetic acid, HCl and HNO3, on reductively cleaned and uncleaned sample pairs. The data demonstrate that Mn-oxide coatings and exchangeable phases have a large impact on the Mo isotopic signature (δ98Mo) of carbonates, even when weak leaching techniques are used to preferentially dissolve them. Furthermore, detrital sources of Mo are also easy to liberate with different leaching protocols, and exert a significant control on leachate isotopic composition. The leaching studies identify that the pelagic carbonate end-member has a relatively high δ98Mo, but the precise relationship to seawater compositions remains unclear. For U, significant contributions from non‑carbonate phases can clearly be identified in higher concentration leaching acids using U/Ca ratios. However, U isotopes (δ238U) show no resolvable difference with different leaching procedures and are not affected by reductive cleaning. This result probably reflects (a) the low potential for leaching refractory residual detrital U phases (e.g., zircon) that contain the majority of U in the sample and (b) the low U inventories of Mn oxides versus those of Mo. Instead, leaching likely extracts U that is mineralogically bound in carbonates and authigenic clays, which share a common isotopic signature. These new data suggest that U incorporation into pelagic carbonates may be dominated by adsorption, and be offset from seawater by ~−0.15‰, in a similar manner to that seen for clays.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Earth and Environmental Sciences
Publisher: Elsevier
ISSN: 0009-2541
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 16 December 2019
Date of Acceptance: 14 November 2019
Last Modified: 06 Nov 2023 15:17

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