Ediacaran growth of the marine sulfate reservoir

Galen P. Halverson*, Matthew T. Hurtgen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

110 Scopus citations


The sulfur isotope record as preserved in sedimentary sulfate and sulfide minerals reflects the progressive oxidation of Earth's surface environment. The latest Proterozoic to early Paleozoic marine sulfur isotope record is distinguished by unusually high δ34S values in marine sulfates and sulfides. Geological considerations and sulfur-isotopic data indicate that the 34S-enrichment of the marine sulfate reservoir was the result of a rapid increase in the net fractionation between sedimentary sulfate and pyrite (Δ34S) without a compensatory decline in the fractional burial rate of pyrite (fpyr). A simple one-box model, in which Δ34S is linked non-linearly to marine [SO4], is used to explore the response in sedimentary sulfur isotope records (δ34Ssulf and δ34Spyr) to an increasing marine sulfate reservoir. The model results, when compared with a compilation of existing δ34Ssulf and δ34Spyr data, suggest that the marine sulfate reservoir grew rapidly to roughly Phanerozoic levels in the middle Ediacaran Period, before the Gaskiers glaciation and prior to the onset of the Shuram-Wonoka negative δ13C anomaly. It is further hypothesized that pO2 levels rose prior to the onset of this extreme perturbation to the global carbon cycle, permitting the oxidation of a previously euxinic deep ocean and appearance of the first Ediacaran fauna by ca. 575 Ma, despite the enormous demand on oxidants implied by this large magnitude and long duration carbon isotope anomaly.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)32-44
Number of pages13
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Nov 15 2007


  • Neoproterozoic
  • carbon isotopes
  • oxygen
  • sulfate
  • sulfur isotopes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science


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