Atmospheric Influence of Earth's Earliest Sulfur Cycle

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Science  04 Aug 2000:
Vol. 289, Issue 5480, pp. 756-758
DOI: 10.1126/science.289.5480.756

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Mass-independent isotopic signatures for δ33S, δ34S, and δ36S from sulfide and sulfate in Precambrian rocks indicate that a change occurred in the sulfur cycle between 2090 and 2450 million years ago (Ma). Before 2450 Ma, the cycle was influenced by gas-phase atmospheric reactions. These atmospheric reactions also played a role in determining the oxidation state of sulfur, implying that atmospheric oxygen partial pressures were low and that the roles of oxidative weathering and of microbial oxidation and reduction of sulfur were minimal. Atmospheric fractionation processes should be considered in the use of sulfur isotopes to study the onset and consequences of microbial fractionation processes in Earth's early history.

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