Application of the δ44/40Ca-δ88/86Sr multi-proxy to Namibian Marinoan cap carbonates

Jiuyuan Wang*, Andrew D. Jacobson, Bradley B. Sageman, Matthew T. Hurtgen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Several studies have exploited the stable calcium (Ca) and strontium (Sr) isotope compositions of marine carbonate rocks to investigate ancient carbon cycle dynamics, seawater geochemistry, and controls on carbonate production and preservation. However, the two proxies have rarely been applied together. Based on knowledge achieved to date, the δ44/40Ca-δ88/86Sr multi-proxy can distinguish signatures imparted by mass-dependent fractionation and reservoir mixing, including early diagenesis and shifts in the isotopic composition of seawater. In detail, the δ44/40Ca-δ88/86Sr multi-proxy represents a five-isotope system because the determination of δ88/86Sr values requires analysis of fractionation-corrected 87Sr/86Sr ratios, which provide additional constraints on mixing. Here, we apply the novel δ44/40Ca-δ88/86Sr multi-proxy to two Marinoan (ca. 635 Ma) “cap carbonate” sequences from Namibia. Cap carbonates were widely deposited after the Neoproterozoic Marinoan Snowball Earth Event, but controversy surrounds their origin. We find that the rocks archive primary environmental signals deriving from a combination of seawater-glacial meltwater mixing and kinetic isotope effects. In an outer platform section, dolostone δ44/40Ca and δ88/86Sr values define a line predicted for kinetic mass-dependent isotope fractionation. This dolostone mostly precipitated from meltwater. Moreover, stratigraphically higher samples exhibiting the fastest precipitation rates display elevated 87Sr/86Sr ratios, consistent with long-held expectations that a rapid deglacial weathering pulse forced cap carbonate formation. An inner-platform dolostone shows greater effects from water-mass mixing but still reveals that precipitation rates increased up-section. Overlying limestones show greater Ca and Sr contributions from seawater. Amplification of local coastal processes during global ice sheet collapse offers a simple but sufficient proposition to explain the Ca isotope heterogeneity of cap carbonates. Detection of kinetic isotope effects provides evidence for predominantly rock-buffered diagenesis and further offers a basis for developing the δ44/40Ca-δ88/86Sr multi-proxy as an indicator of saturation state and pCO2.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)13-27
Number of pages15
JournalGeochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
StatePublished - Jul 15 2023


  • Calcium isotopes
  • Cap carbonate
  • Marinoan Snowball Earth
  • Strontium isotopes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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