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Oxidative sulfide dissolution on the early Earth

Reinhard, Christopher T. and Lalonde, Stefan V. and Lyons, Timothy W. (2013) Oxidative sulfide dissolution on the early Earth. Chemical Geology, 362 . pp. 44-55. ISSN 0009-2541.

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Recent evidence suggests that the biological production of oxygen in Earth's surface oceans may have preceded the initial accumulation of large amounts of oxygen in the atmosphere by 100 million years or more. However, the potential effects of early oxygen production on surface ocean chemistry have remained little explored, and questions persist regarding the locus of oxidation of crustal material (i.e., subaerial and/or submarine settings). Here, we revisit the notion of spatially restricted ‘oxygen oases’ in the Archean surface ocean by employing a simple steady-state box model of the surface ocean in a coastal upwelling system. Using pyrite as an example, we then explore the possibility that oxygenic photosynthesis in such a system could support the widespread oxidation of crustal sulfide minerals without concomitant accumulation of oxygen in the atmosphere. We find that it is possible to establish strong air–sea gas exchange disequilibrium with respect to O_2. However, in marine settings there is an apparent timescale mismatch between the kinetics of oxidative dissolution and the rate at which sulfide minerals delivered physically to shallow marine sediments will be buried below the zone of oxygen penetration. Estimated dissolution timescales compare somewhat more favorably with typical timescales of soil development and physical weathering/transport in the subaerial realm, despite the much lower dissolved oxygen concentrations inferred at gas exchange equilibrium with atmospheric pO_2 relative to those attainable in productive regions of the surface ocean. However, broad scale subaerial weathering of sulfides would likely have required either local O_2 production at the site of weathering or transient increase in atmospheric pO_2 above the most plausible levels characteristic of a pervasively reducing atmosphere.

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Reinhard, Christopher T.0000-0002-2632-1027
Additional Information:© 2013 Elsevier B.V. Accepted 2 October 2013. Available online 17 October 2013. This paper is dedicated to the memory of Dick Holland, whose incisive and elegant treatment of complex problems is an inspiration and whose formative work on understanding the Earth's chemical history is still ahead of its time. We are indebted to early discussions with Ariel Anbar and Mark Claire, and thank Lee Kump, Stephanie Olson, Jim Kasting and an anonymous reviewer for constructive comments and criticisms that greatly improved the manuscript. We also thank Andrey Bekker, Jim Kasting, Ariel Anbar and Barbara Sherwood Lollar for their efforts in putting together this special volume. This research was financially supported by the National Science Foundation and the NASA Astrobiology Program. C.T.R. acknowledges support from the O.K. Earl Postdoctoral Fellowship in the Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences at the California Institute of Technology.
Funding AgencyGrant Number
NASA Astrobiology ProgramUNSPECIFIED
Caltech O.K. Earl Postdoctoral FellowshipUNSPECIFIED
Subject Keywords:Geobiology; Biogeochemistry; Earth surface processes; Early Earth
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20131112-085808389
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Official Citation:Christopher T. Reinhard, Stefan V. Lalonde, Timothy W. Lyons, Oxidative sulfide dissolution on the early Earth, Chemical Geology, Volume 362, 20 December 2013, Pages 44-55, ISSN 0009-2541, (
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:42370
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:12 Nov 2013 19:09
Last Modified:09 Mar 2020 13:19

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