Sedimentary Carbon, Sulfur, and Iron Relationships in Modern and Ancient Diagenetic Environments of the Eel River Basin (U.S.A.)

Journal of Sedimentary Research
By: , and 



Depositional and diagenetic controls on the distributions of carbon, sulfur, and iron (C-S-Fe) in modern sediments and upper Pleistocene mudrocks of the Eel River Basin (ERB), northern California continental margin, were investigated using a combination of geochemical, radioisotopic, and sedimentological methods. A mass balance based on down-core profiles of porewater and solid-phase constituents and diagenetic modeling suggests that only 12-30% of the pyrite-S produced via SO4-2 reduction during burial is retained in modern shelf and upper slope deposits of the ERB. Bioturbational reoxidation of initially reduced S is inferred to be the major control on S preservation, on the basis of an observed inverse relationship between pyrite-S retention and biological mixing intensity, estimated from profiles of excess 234Th. Importantly, these findings argue that massive depositional episodes on the shelf following floods of the Eel River have a negligible long-term impact on bioturbating macrofauna and the potential to affect geochemical properties of the sediments. Down-core profiles of reactive Fe3+and Py-Fe(II) for the modern deposits suggest that highly reactive Fe phases are sulfidized well within ∼ 500-2000 years of burial, thereby limiting later pyritization, which could occur through sulfidation of less reactive phases. This result explains the low (≤ 0.4) degree of pyritization (DOP) values exhibited by both modern and ancient deposits of the ERB and lends support to the notion that pyritization in aerobic continental-margin sediments is largely associated with highly reactive detrital Fe oxides. Comparable mean C/S weight ratios for modern sediments (5.4 ± 3.3, 1σ) and mudrocks (6.9 ± 4.5) of the ERB suggest that the upper Pleistocene strata reflect a geochemical environment analogous to that of the modern margin. Specifically, the C-S-Fe signatures shared by the modern and ancient deposits are a consequence of similar detrital Fe mineralogies, initial organic-matter content (Corg ≤ 1%) and composition (C/N = 13 to 17, δ13Corg = -22 to -25‰), burial rate, and importantly, bioturbation intensity. The findings of this study have important implications for the use of C-S-Fe signatures as indicators of diagenetic processes in dynamic, continental-margin environments.

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Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Sedimentary Carbon, Sulfur, and Iron Relationships in Modern and Ancient Diagenetic Environments of the Eel River Basin (U.S.A.)
Series title Journal of Sedimentary Research
DOI 10.1306/2DC40947-0E47-11D7-8643000102C1865D
Volume 71
Issue 3
Year Published 2001
Language English
Publisher Society for Sedimentary Geology
Contributing office(s) Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center
Description 11 p.
First page 335
Last page 345
Country United States
State California
Other Geospatial Eel River
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