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Iron isotope variations in holocene sediments of the Gotland Deep, Baltic Sea

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Abstract

Holocene sediments from the Gotland Deep basin in the Baltic Sea were investigated for their Fe isotopic composition in order to assess the impact of changes in redox conditions and a transition from freshwater to brackish water on the isotope signature of iron. The sediments display variations in δ56Fe (differences in the 56Fe/54Fe ratio relative to the IRMM-14 standard) from −0.27 ± 0.09‰ to +0.21 ± 0.08‰. Samples deposited in a mainly limnic environment with oxygenated bottom water have a mean δ56Fe of +0.08 ± 0.13‰, which is identical to the mean Fe isotopic composition of igneous rocks and oxic marine sediments. In contrast, sediments that formed in brackish water under periodically euxinic conditions display significantly lighter Fe isotope signatures with a mean δ56Fe of −0.14 ± 0.19‰. Negative correlations of the δ56Fe values with the Fe/Al ratio and S content of the samples suggest that the isotopically light Fe in the periodically euxinic samples is associated with reactive Fe enrichments and sulfides. This is supported by analyses of pyrite separates from this unit that have a mean Fe isotopic composition of −1.06 ± 0.20‰ for δ56Fe. The supply of additional Fe with a light Fe isotopic signature can be explained with the shelf to basin Fe shuttle model. According to the Fe shuttle model, oxides and benthic ferrous Fe that is derived from dissimilatory iron reduction from shelves is transported and accumulated in euxinic basins. The data furthermore suggest that the euxinic water has a negative dissolved δ56Fe value of about −1.4‰ to −0.9‰. If negative Fe isotopic signatures are characteristic for euxinic sediment formation, widespread euxinia in the past might have shifted the Fe isotopic composition of dissolved Fe in the ocean towards more positive δ56Fe values.

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