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A modern framework for the interpretation of 238U/235U in studies of ancient ocean redox

Andersen, M. B. ORCID:, Romaniello, S., Vance, D., Little, S. H., Herdman, R. and Lyons, T. W. 2014. A modern framework for the interpretation of 238U/235U in studies of ancient ocean redox. Earth and Planetary Science Letters 400 , pp. 184-194. 10.1016/j.epsl.2014.05.051

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The abundance and isotope composition of redox sensitive elements in ancient sediments are increasingly used to understand the past ocean's geochemical state and the oxygenation history of the Earth. The redox transition of uranium (U) from soluble U+6 to relatively insoluble U+4 and its subsequent incorporation into reduced sediments has been used to deduce the redox state of the oceans in the past. Furthermore, recent analytical improvements have revealed significant 238U/235U fractionation during this redox transition, offering the potential for U isotopes to act as a redox proxy. However, the development of U isotopes as a geochemical tracer requires that U isotope systematics associated with redox changes, are well-characterized. This study focuses on U isotopes in recent sediments from the two largest modern anoxic ocean basins, the Black Sea and the Cariaco Basin, with the aim of advancing our understanding of the U isotope systematics in reducing marine environments. These anoxic sediments have high U accumulation rates and high 238U/235U ratios relative to seawater, in general agreement with a process that accumulates reduced U with a heavy isotopic composition. Using Al and Ca concentrations to correct for detrital and biogenic carbonate-bound U, we estimate the reduced authigenic U accumulated in the sediments and its 238U/235U. These results highlight the importance of isotopic mass balance constraints during diffusive transport and reaction of U from seawater and through pore-water, affecting the observed 238U/235U in sediments. Using these constraints, the average percentages of U depletion from top to bottom of the water column can be estimated, assuming batch-removal of U into anoxic sediments in a restricted basin. Using this framework, 238U/235U in modern anoxic sediments from the Black Sea imply U depletions in the water column of ∼30% , which is close to the observed ∼40% U depletion in the modern Black Sea water column at these depths. Similar U depletion in the water column is estimated from anoxic sediment samples of the Cariaco Basin. These recent anoxic sediments provide a basis for interpreting authigenic 238U/235U in ancient sediments. In particular, such analyses may offer insights, based on mass balance relationships, into whether particular ancient sediments were deposited in an open ocean or restricted basin. As such, this approach may provide key insight into the controls on local versus ocean-scale redox and, in that light, constraints the capacity of other proxies to capture global signals for anoxia/euxinia.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Earth and Environmental Sciences
Publisher: Elsevier
ISSN: 0012-821X
Funders: NERC
Date of Acceptance: 27 May 2014
Last Modified: 01 Nov 2022 09:30

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