Stable isotope ratios of oxygen and carbon were determined for CO2 in soil gas in the vicinity of the massive sulfide deposit at Crandon, Wisconsin with the objective of determining the source of anomalously high CO2 concentrations detected previously by McCarthy et al. (1986). Values of ??13C in soil gas CO2 from depths between 0.5 and 1.0 m were found to range from -12.68??? to -20.03??? (PDB). Organic carbon from the uppermost meter of soil has ??13C between -24.1 and -25.8??? (PDB), indicating derivation from plant species with the C3 (Calvin) type of photosynthetic pathway. Microbial decomposition of the organic carbon and root respiration from C3 and C4 (Hatch-Slack) plants, together with atmospheric CO2 are the likely sources of carbon in soil gas CO2. Values of ??18O in soil-gas CO2 range from 32 to 38??? (SMOW). These ??18O values are intermediate between that calculated for CO2 gas in isotopic equilibrium with local groundwaters and that for atmospheric CO2. The ??18O data indicate that atmospheric CO2 has been incorporated by mixing or diffusion. Any CO2 generated by microbial oxidation of organic matter has equilibrated its oxygen isotopes with the local groundwaters. The isotopic composition of soil-gas CO2 taken from directly above the massive sulfide deposit was not distinguishable from that of background samples taken 1 to 2 km away. No enrichment of the ??13C value of soil-gas CO2 was observed, contrary to what would be expected if the anomalous CO2 were derived from the dissolution of Proterozoic marine limestone country rock or of Paleozoic limestone clasts in glacial till. Therefore, it is inferred that root respiration and decay of C3 plant material were responsible for most CO2 generation both in the vicinity of the massive sulfide and in the "background" area, on the occasion of our sampling. Interpretation of our data is complicated by the effects of rainfall, which significantly reduced the magnitude of the CO2 anomaly. Therefore, we cannot rule out the possible mechanism of carbonate dissolution driven by pyrite oxidation, as proposed by Lovell et al. (1983) and McCarthy et al. (1986). Further work is needed on seasonal and daily variations of CO2 concentrations and stable isotope ratios in various hydrogeologic and ecologic settings so that more effective sampling strategies can be developed for mineral exploration using soil gases. ?? 1990.
Additional publication details
Stable isotopes of carbon dioxide in soil gas over massive sulfide mineralization at Crandon, Wisconsin