Project

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The development and application of transition metal isotope systems in surface Earth geochemistry

Applicant Vance Derek
Number 143262
Funding scheme Project funding (Div. I-III)
Research institution Institut für Geochemie und Petrologie ETH Zürich
Institution of higher education ETH Zurich - ETHZ
Main discipline Geochemistry
Start/End 01.10.2012 - 31.03.2016
Approved amount 351'032.00
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Keywords (5)

Isotope geochemistry; Isotopic biomarkers; Biogeochemistry; Transition metals; Ocean chemistry

Lay Summary (English)

Lead
Lay summary

This project seeks to understand the role that trace metals, particularly the transition metals, play in controlling the Earth’s biosphere, and its interactions with the abiotic Earth. In particular, it will use natural variations in the isotopic composition of these metals as tracers of biological processes, of their impact on the abiotic Earth, and as markers for the evolution of certain groups of microbes early in Earth history.

 

The driving objective is an attempt to quantify how the prominent role of trace metals in the Earth’s biosphere controls the carbon cycle: (a) how uptake of carbon dioxide by oceanic plankton is controlled by metal availability at the present-day and in the recent geological past – an issue that is important in understanding the controls on the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide and its relationship to climate; (b) how the evolution of trace metal usage by the very early biosphere on Earth controlled the chemistry of the early atmosphere, and to what extent the isotopic fingerprint of different fossil groups of microbes could be used to track the evolution of the Earth’s biosphere in the distant geological past.

 

These twin aims require three main scientific pursuits. First, the isotope systems of trace metals are relatively new tools in geochemistry. Thus, we need to further develop our fundamental understanding of how they work. This requires laboratory experiments that measure the impact of both biological and abiotic processes on the isotopic systems in question.  Second, we will study the distribution of trace metals and their isotopes in the modern oceans. We will pursue this in collaboration with a large international project (GEOTRACES) through which we can obtain large seawater samples for isotopic analysis. These metals may limit the growth of marine plankton in large parts of the oceans. Thus, they partially control the uptake of carbon from the atmosphere to the ocean, and it has been suggested that increased availability of trace metals caused the swings in atmospheric CO2 that have characterised the geologically-recent (past 2 million years) climate cycles. Finally, recent genetic work has suggested that the early biosphere on Earth used different metals as it evolved. This work has suggested the possibility that trace metal isotope signatures in the rock record could be used to track this evolution, so that there is potential to more securely establish the timing of the evolution of different groups. Though this is an important scientific aim in itself, it is also crucial to the evolution of the surface Earth – for example, the evolution of photosynthesis may have changed the greenhouse gas chemistry of the atmosphere, from domination by methane to the dominance of carbon dioxide we see today – perhaps one of the most profound changes ever to have affected the surface Earth.

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 21.02.2013

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Employees

Publications

Publication
Zinc association with surface-bound iron-hydroxides on cultured marine diatoms: a zinc stable isotope perspective
Köbberich M., Vance D. (2018), Zinc association with surface-bound iron-hydroxides on cultured marine diatoms: a zinc stable isotope perspective, in Marine Chemistry, 202, 1-11.
Anoxic development of Sapropel S1 in the Nile Fan inferred from redox sensitive proxies, Fe speciation, Fe and Mo isotopes
Matthews A., Azrieli-Tal I, Ayelet B. C. Archer, Bar-Matthews M., Vance D., Poulton S.W., Almogi-Labin A. (2017), Anoxic development of Sapropel S1 in the Nile Fan inferred from redox sensitive proxies, Fe speciation, Fe and Mo isotopes, in Archer, C., 475, 24-39.
Experimental confirmation of isotope fractionation in thiomolybdates using ion chromatographic separation and detection by multi-collector ICP-MS
Kerl C., Loymayer R., Bura-Nakic E., Vance D., Planer-Friedrich B. (2017), Experimental confirmation of isotope fractionation in thiomolybdates using ion chromatographic separation and detection by multi-collector ICP-MS, in Analytical Chemistry, 89, 3123-3129.
Kinetic control on Zn isotope signatures recorded in marine diatoms
Köbberich M., Vance D. (2017), Kinetic control on Zn isotope signatures recorded in marine diatoms, in Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, 210, 197-213.
The isotope geochemistry of zinc and copper
Moynier F., Vance D., Fujii T., Savage P. (2017), The isotope geochemistry of zinc and copper, in Reviews in Mineralogy and Geochemistry.
Critical role of continental margin sediments in the oceanic mass balance of Zn and Zn isotopes
Little S.H., Vance D., McManus J., Severmann S. (2016), Critical role of continental margin sediments in the oceanic mass balance of Zn and Zn isotopes, in Geology, 44, 207-210.
Rise to modern levels of oceanic oxygenation co-incided with the Cambrian radiation of animals
Chen X., Ling H.F., Vance D., Shields-Zhou G., Zhi M., Poulton S., Och L., Jiang S.Y., Li D., Cremonese L., Archer C. (2015), Rise to modern levels of oceanic oxygenation co-incided with the Cambrian radiation of animals, in Nature Communications, 6, 7142.
Biogeochemical cycling of cadmium isotopes in the Southern Ocean along the Zero Meridian
Abouchami W., Galer S.J.G., de Baar H.J.W., Middag R., Vance D., Zhao Y., Klunder M., Mezger K., Feldman H., Andreae M.O. (2014), Biogeochemical cycling of cadmium isotopes in the Southern Ocean along the Zero Meridian, in Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, 127, 348-367.
Biogeochemical cycling of zinc and its isotopes in the Southern Ocean
Zhao Y., Vance D., Abouchami W., de Baar H.J.W. (2014), Biogeochemical cycling of zinc and its isotopes in the Southern Ocean, in Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, 125, 653-672.
Evidence from molybdenum and iron isotopes and molybdenum–uranium covariation for sulphidic bottom waters during Eastern Mediterranean sapropel S1 formation
Azrieli-Tal I., Matthews A., Bar-Matthews M., Vance D., Archer C., Teutsch N. (2014), Evidence from molybdenum and iron isotopes and molybdenum–uranium covariation for sulphidic bottom waters during Eastern Mediterranean sapropel S1 formation, in Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 393, 231-242.
Heavy nickel isotope compositions in rivers and the oceans
Cameron V., Vance D. (2014), Heavy nickel isotope compositions in rivers and the oceans, in Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, 130, 12-20.
Heterogeneous oxygenation states in the Atlantic and Tethys oceans during Oceanic Anoxic Event 2
Westermann S., Vance D., Cameron V., Archer C., Robinson S.A. (2014), Heterogeneous oxygenation states in the Atlantic and Tethys oceans during Oceanic Anoxic Event 2, in Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 404, 178-189.
The oceanic mass balance of copper and zinc isotopes, investigated by analysis of their inputs and oxic output in ferromanganese crusts
Little S.H., Vance D., Walker-Brown C., Landing W.M. (2014), The oceanic mass balance of copper and zinc isotopes, investigated by analysis of their inputs and oxic output in ferromanganese crusts, in Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, 125, 673-693.
A modeling assessment of the role of reversible scavenging in controlling oceanic dissolved Cu and Zn distributions
Little Susan, Vance Derek, Siddall Mark, Gasson Edward (2013), A modeling assessment of the role of reversible scavenging in controlling oceanic dissolved Cu and Zn distributions, in Global Biogeochemical Cycles, 27, 780-791.

Collaboration

Group / person Country
Types of collaboration
Climate Geology/Geology/ETH Zürich Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
- Research Infrastructure
- Exchange of personnel
University of Oxford Great Britain and Northern Ireland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
University of Victoria Canada (North America)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
University of Bristol Great Britain and Northern Ireland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
- Research Infrastructure
- Exchange of personnel
University of Tasmania Australia (Oceania)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results

Scientific events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Title of article or contribution Date Place Persons involved
American Geophysical Union, Fall Meeting Talk given at a conference Phase-specific geochemistry of trace metals: Development of a novel biosignature 12.12.2016 San Francisco, United States of America Ciscato Emily Rose;
Goldschmidt Conference Talk given at a conference Ligand control on Zn isotope signatures of marine phytoplankton 26.06.2016 Yokohama, Japan Köbberich Michael;
Goldschmidt Conference Poster Phase-specific geochemistry of trace metals: Development of a novel biosignature 26.06.2016 Yokohama, Japan Ciscato Emily Rose;
Goldschmidt Conference Talk given at a conference The continent-ocean flux of transition metals and their isotopes 26.06.2016 Yokohama, Japan Vance Derek;
Royal Society oceanic trace metals symposium Talk given at a conference Transition metal isotopes as tracers of oceanic metal budgets and cycling 07.12.2015 London, Great Britain and Northern Ireland Vance Derek;
Goldschmidt Conference Talk given at a conference The oceanic biogeochemical cycle of zinc and its isotopes: the dominance of diatoms and the Southern Ocean 16.08.2015 Prague, Czech Republic Vance Derek;
Goldschmidt Conference Poster Organic-bound trace metals and geosphere-biosphere co-evolution: Development of a novel biosignature 16.08.2015 Prague, Czech Republic Ciscato Emily Rose;
Goldschmidt Conference Poster Iron limited diatoms do not fractionate zinc isotopes: Culturing evidence 16.08.2015 Prague, Czech Republic Köbberich Michael;
IMA 2014 Poster Organic-bound trace metals and unconventional isotopic systems as new approaches for reconstructing Earth's early biosphere 01.09.2014 Johannesburg, South Africa Ciscato Emily Rose;
Goldschmidt Conference Poster Zinc isotopes as a tool to study zinc uptake by marine phytoplankton 25.08.2013 Florence, Italy Köbberich Michael;
Goldschmidt conference Talk given at a conference The oceanic cycles of the transition metals and their isotopes 25.08.2013 Florene, Italy Vance Derek;
EnvironMetal Conference Talk given at a conference The heavy isotope compositions of transition metals in rivers 18.08.2013 Ascona, Switzerland Vance Derek;
EnvironMetal Conference Poster Transition metal isotopes as a tool to reconstruct past carbon cycling 18.08.2013 Ascona, Switzerland Köbberich Michael;


Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
165904 Metal isotope constraints on biosphere-environment interactions in Earth history 01.04.2016 Project funding (Div. I-III)
153087 Understanding the oceanic cycling of trace metal micronutrients 01.04.2014 Project funding (Div. I-III)

Abstract

The isotopic systems of the transition metals are a relatively new tool in geochemistry. Here we propose three sub-projects that will both further develop our fundamental understanding of these isotopic systems, and undertake work that will seek to apply them to two big scientific questions introduced below. (1) An essential part of the development of transition metal isotopes is an increased understanding and quantification of the processes that cause isotopic fractionation. Though significant progress has been made in this direction, much remains to be done. Here, we will undertake experiments aimed at understanding both abiotic and biotic isotopic fractionations in the oceans. Scavenging to marine particulate matter (i.e. sorption to particulate surfaces) represents an important output of transition metals from the seawater solution, and sets the isotopic composition of the chemical sediments that are often used as records of the isotopic history of seawater. We will collaborate with surface chemists in experiments that will characterise the isotopic composition of Cu, Zn, Mo and Ni sorbed to a range of particulate types (Fe-Mn oxyhydroxides, biogenic opal and calcite, particulate organic carbon). In addition, in collaboration with experts in culturing, we will also further characterise isotopic fractionations of these metals upon uptake into the cells of groups of organisms that are important to the biogeochemistry of both the modern and ancient oceans.(2) The transition metals limit the growth of marine phytoplankton in large part of the oceans, including the Southern Ocean and the North Pacific. Thus, they partially control the sequestration of carbon from the atmosphere to the ocean, and it has been suggested that increased availability of trace metals caused the swings in atmospheric CO2 that have characterised the recent glacial-interglacial cycles. In combination with the work on fractionation processes from the first sub-project, data on isotopic patterns in the modern ocean has already shed light on the internal cycling of trace metals in the ocean, and has the potential to reveal much more. We will pursue this in collaboration with a large international project (GEOTRACES) through which we can obtain large seawater samples for isotopic analysis, for which the methodology is now routine in our laboratory. We will build on work we have already done to apply our understanding of the modern ocean to the recent past, through the building of records of isotopic compositions derived from sediments.(3) Recent genomic work on metalloproteomes has suggested that the early biosphere on Earth used different metals as it evolved. This work has suggested the possibility that trace metal isotope signatures in the rock record could be used to track this evolution, so that there is potential to place more secure chronological constraints on the advent of different groups, both important in themselves but also crucial to the evolution of the abiotic surface Earth (for example, the evolution of oxygenic photosynthesis and the appearance of O2 in the Earth’s atmosphere, the greenhouse gas chemistry of the atmosphere). Here we propose to quantify the isotopic fractionations caused by the evolving biosphere with a record of paired isotopic analyses of kerogen (the remains of the biosphere in rocks) and recorders of the oceanic isotopic composition through time, to test currently controversial ideas about the timing of the evolution of key groups of organisms on the early Earth and their impact on its surface environment of the Earth.
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