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Sulfate Burial Constraints on the Phanerozoic Sulfur Cycle

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Science  20 Jul 2012:
Vol. 337, Issue 6092, pp. 331-334
DOI: 10.1126/science.1220224

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Abstract

The sulfur cycle influences the respiration of sedimentary organic matter, the oxidation state of the atmosphere and oceans, and the composition of seawater. However, the factors governing the major sulfur fluxes between seawater and sedimentary reservoirs remain incompletely understood. Using macrostratigraphic data, we quantified sulfate evaporite burial fluxes through Phanerozoic time. Approximately half of the modern riverine sulfate flux comes from weathering of recently deposited evaporites. Rates of sulfate burial are unsteady and linked to changes in the area of marine environments suitable for evaporite formation and preservation. By contrast, rates of pyrite burial and weathering are higher, less variable, and largely balanced, highlighting a greater role of the sulfur cycle in regulating atmospheric oxygen.

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