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Metal isotope constraints on biosphere-environment interactions in Earth history

English title Metal isotope constraints on biosphere-environment interactions in Earth history
Applicant Vance Derek
Number 165904
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 01.04.2016 - 31.03.2019
Approved amount 600'000.00
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Keywords (5)

Earth history; Transition metals; Isotope geochemistry; Ocean chemistry; Biogeochemistry

Lay Summary (German)

Lead
Einblicke in die Coevolution des Lebens mit Sauerstoff durch die Erdgeschichte mithilfe von Metallchemie und deren Isotope.
Lay summary

Die Erdgeschichte überliefert wichtige Veränderungen in der Beschaffenheit der Erdoberfläche. Ein Schlüsselbeispiel ist die stufenweise Entwicklung des O2-gehaltes (molekularer Sauerstoff), ein essentielles Molekül. Während dieser auf der jungen Erde so gut wie fehlte, sind die heutige Atmosphäre sowie der Ozean reich an Sauerstoff. Einhergehend mit Veränderungen der Chemie beider Reservoire, veränderte sich auch das Leben auf der Erde, von einfachen Lebenformen (einzelligen Algen) hin zu jener komplexen Diversität, die uns heute so vertraut ist. Zeitlich fällt die chemische Entwicklung der Landoberfläche mit den grössten Veränderungen der Biosphäre zusammen, ein möglicher kausaler Zusammenhang wird heiss debattiert.

 

Die Chemie einiger Spurenmetalle an der Erdoberfläche ist sensitiv gegenüber dem Sauerstoffgehalt der Atmosphäre und des Ozeans. Zudem sind Metalle essentiell für das Leben, ihre Verfügbarkeit steht in Verdacht die Evolution der Biosphäre, von der jungen bis zur modernen Erde, maßgeblich mitgestaltet zu haben. Oxidationszustände kontrollieren die Isotopie dieser Metalle in ähnlicher Weise wie die Aufnahme von Metallen durch Organismen zu Variationen führen kann. Dieses Projekt zielt darauf ab Häufigkeit und Isotopie von Übergangsmetallen in sedimentären Gesteinsabfolgen für das Verständnis der zeitlichen Entwicklung der Erdoberfläche und deren Biosphäre zu nutzen.

 

Die Anwendung von Metallisotopen zum Verständnis der Erdgeschichte ist eine der Kernbemühungen  unserer Arbeitsgruppe, Geochemie der Erdoberfläche, eine Fachrichtung zu deren Aufbau wir wichtige Pionierarbeiten geleistet haben. Im Rahmen dieses Gesuches würden wir gerne unsere Bemühungen zur Entwicklung von Metallisotopen als verlässliche Indikatoren der Erdgeschichte, im Experiment wie auch durch das Studium heutiger Systeme, fortsetzen. Damit zielen wir auf zwei kritische Intervalle der Erdgeschichte, gekennzeichnet durch Veränderungen der Landoberfläche wie auch der Biosphäre.
Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 30.03.2016

Lay Summary (English)

Lead
Understanding the co-evolution of oxygen and life in Earth history using metal chemistry and isotopes
Lay summary

Earth history records important shifts in the character of our planet’s surface environment. A key example is the stepped change in how much of the important molecule O2 (molecular oxygen) there has been at the surface of the Earth. The very early Earth had virtually none, but we now have an oxygen-rich atmosphere and ocean. These changes in ocean and atmospheric chemistry have gone along with changes in life on Earth, which began as very simple forms (single-celled algae) but has evolved into the complex and diverse array of organisms we see today. Changes in the chemical character of the surface Earth are often closely associated in time with big changes in the biosphere, but cause and effect relationships between the two are hotly debated.

 The Earth surface chemistry of some trace metals is sensitive to the amount of oxygen in the atmosphere and ocean. Moreover, metals are vital to life, and the availability of specific metals has been suggested to help shape the evolution of the biosphere from the earliest Earth to the present day. Changes in oxygenation also control the isotopic composition of these metals, and the usage of the metals by organisms also leads to isotopic variation in the environment. This project aims to use records of the total abundance and isotopic composition of transition metals in sedimentary rocks to study of the evolution of the surface Earth and its biosphere.

 The use of metal isotope systems in this way is one of the core pursuits of the Surface Earth Geochemistry group at ETH Zürich, and we have helped to pioneer this new sub-discipline of isotope geochemistry. Here we seek to continue our effort to develop the transition metal isotope systems into more faithful records of Earth history, through experiments and observations of modern systems. We also aim to use them to understand two key periods of Earth history that have seen major changes in both the Earth’s environment and its biosphere.

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 30.03.2016

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Employees

Publications

Publication
Zinc and nickel isotopes in seawater from the Indian Sector of the Southern Ocean: The impact of natural iron fertilization versus Southern Ocean hydrography and biogeochemistry
Wang R.-M., Archer C., Bowie A.R., Vance D. (2019), Zinc and nickel isotopes in seawater from the Indian Sector of the Southern Ocean: The impact of natural iron fertilization versus Southern Ocean hydrography and biogeochemistry, in Chemical Geology, 511, 452-464.
A 10-fold decline in the deep Eastern Mediterranean thermohaline overturning circulation during the last interglacial period
Andersen M.B., Matthews A., Vance D., Bar-Matthews M., Archer C., de Souza G.F. (2018), A 10-fold decline in the deep Eastern Mediterranean thermohaline overturning circulation during the last interglacial period, in Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 503, 58-67.
The GEOTRACES Intermediate Data Product 2017
Schlitzer Reiner, Anderson Robert F., Dodas Elena Masferrer, Lohan Maeve, Geibert Walter, Tagliabue Alessandro, Bowie Andrew, Jeandel Catherine, Maldonado Maria T., Landing William M., Cockwell Donna, Abadie Cyril, Abouchami Wafa, Achterberg Eric P., Agather Alison, Aguliar-Islas Ana, van Aken Hendrik M., Andersen Morten, Archer Corey, Auro Maureen, de Baar Hein J., Baars Oliver, Baker Alex R., Bakker Karel, et al. (2018), The GEOTRACES Intermediate Data Product 2017, in Chemical Geology, 493, 210-223.
Nickel and its isotopes in organic-rich sediments: implications for oceanic budgets and a potential record of ancient seawater.
Ciscato E.R., Bontognali T.R.R., Vance D. (2018), Nickel and its isotopes in organic-rich sediments: implications for oceanic budgets and a potential record of ancient seawater., in Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 494, 239-250.

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
Cullen Group (University of Victoria) Canada (North America)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
- Research Infrastructure
- Exchange of personnel
Lohan Group (University of Southampton) Great Britain and Northern Ireland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
- Research Infrastructure
Henderson Group (Oxford) Great Britain and Northern Ireland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
- Research Infrastructure
Sherman Group (Univ. Bristol) Great Britain and Northern Ireland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
- Research Infrastructure
- Exchange of personnel
Poulton Group (Univ. Leeds) Great Britain and Northern Ireland (Europe)
- Publication
- Research Infrastructure
- Exchange of personnel
Hassler Group (University of Geneva) Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
- Research Infrastructure
- Exchange of personnel
Global Change Ecology (Univ. Bayreuth) Germany (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
- Research Infrastructure
- Exchange of personnel
Knoll Group (Harvard) United States of America (North America)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
Hong-Fei Ling (Nanjing University) China (Asia)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
- Research Infrastructure
- Exchange of personnel
Ellwood Group (ANU) Australia (Oceania)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
- Research Infrastructure
- Exchange of personnel
Ruder-Boskovic Institute (Zagreb) Croatia (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
- Research Infrastructure
- Exchange of personnel

Scientific events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Title of article or contribution Date Place Persons involved
Kaplan Conference Talk given at a conference The relationship between the major nutrients, trace metals and their isotopes 10.02.2019 Eilat, Israel Vance Derek;
Seminar at National Institute of Oceanography Individual talk The isotope biogeochemistry of the transition metals in the ocean 20.01.2019 Goa, India Vance Derek;
Departmental Seminar Individual talk Oceanic transition metals and their isotopes: modern cycles and potential in Earth history 10.01.2019 Hefei, China Vance Derek;
Goldschmidt Conference Talk given at a conference Addition of isotopically light Zinc in the North Atlantic (GEOVIDE; GEOTRACES GA01 transect) 12.08.2018 Boston, United States of America Lemaitre Nolwenn; Vance Derek;
EPFL seminar Individual talk The oceanic biogeochemistry of transition metals and their isotopes 09.04.2018 Lausanne, Switzerland Vance Derek;
Gordon Conference: The Microbial Planet from Deep Time to Today Talk given at a conference Biogeochemical Travels Through Time - A Metal Stable Isotope Perspective 21.01.2018 Galveston, United States of America Ciscato Emily Rose;
Department Seminar Individual talk The oceanic biogeochemistry of transition metals and their isotopes 25.10.2017 Basel, Switzerland Vance Derek;
GEOTRACES Summer School Talk given at a conference The modern oceanic cycles of Zn and Ni and their isotopes 20.08.2017 Brest, France Vance Derek;
Goldschmidt Conference Talk given at a conference Chemistry, not biology, is the main control on modern ocean transition metal isotope budgets 13.08.2017 Paris, France Vance Derek; Ciscato Emily Rose;
Goldschmidt Conference Talk given at a conference Experimental Confirmation of Isotope Fractionation in Thiomolybdates Using Ion Chromatographic Separation and Detection by Multi-Collector ICP-MS 13.08.2017 Paris, France Vance Derek;
Goldschmidt Conference Individual talk Phase Partitioning of Transition Metals and their Isotopes in the Particulate Load of the Amazon River 13.08.2017 Paris, France Vance Derek;
Goldschmidt Conference Talk given at a conference Negligible Ni Isotope Fractionation Associated with Phytoplankton Uptake in the South Atlantic Ocean 13.08.2017 Paris, France Vance Derek;
Goldschmidt Conference Individual talk First Zn Stable Isotope Results on Cultured Marine Cyanobacteria 13.08.2017 Paris, France Vance Derek;
Goldschmidt COnference Poster An Experimental Study of Reductive Cleaning Procedures for Investigating Metal Isotopes in Ancient Carbonates 13.08.2017 Paris, France Müsing Kim; Vance Derek;
Goldschmidt Conference Individual talk Goldschmidt2017 AbstractVariations of zinc and nickel isotopes in a natural iron fertilized region around Kerguelen Island, Southern Ocean 13.08.2017 Paris, France Vance Derek;
Goldschmidt Conference Talk given at a conference Tracking seawater chemistry over the last 3.2Ga: a Ni stable isotopeperspective 13.08.2017 Paris, France Vance Derek; Ciscato Emily Rose;
Goldschmidt Conference Talk given at a conference Particulate trace element exports in the North Atlantic (GEOVIDE; GEOTRACES GA01 transect) 13.08.2017 Paris, France Lemaitre Nolwenn;
Isotopes 2017 Talk given at a conference Metal isotopes in oceanography and paleoceanography: what they tell us and what they don’t 09.07.2017 Monte Verita, Switzerland Vance Derek;
Department seminar Individual talk Does biology or chemistry exert the main control on oceanic metal isotope cycles? 19.06.2017 Nanjing, China Vance Derek;
Geochemistry of the Earth's Surface Talk given at a conference The oceanic cycles of the transition metals and their isotopes 11.06.2017 Guiyang, China Vance Derek;
Yale Geology Colloquium Individual talk Metal isotopes in oceanography and paleoceanography. What are they good for? 18.04.2017 Yale, United States of America Vance Derek;
Institute Seminar Individual talk The oceanic biogeochemical cycle of zinc and its isotopes 25.01.2017 Kiel, Germany Vance Derek;
Goldschmidt Conference Talk given at a conference The Continent-Ocean Flux of Transition Metals and their Isotopes 26.06.2016 Yokhama, Japan Vance Derek;


Knowledge transfer events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Date Place Persons involved
ART LAB – Wasser Welt Workshop 23.04.2019 Zurich, Switzerland Lemaitre Nolwenn;
ART LAB – Water of life Workshop 03.09.2018 Viseu, Portugal Lemaitre Nolwenn;


Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
143262 The development and application of transition metal isotope systems in surface Earth geochemistry 01.10.2012 Project funding (Div. I-III)
153087 Understanding the oceanic cycling of trace metal micronutrients 01.04.2014 Project funding (Div. I-III)

Abstract

Earth history records fundamental shifts in the character of the planet’s surface environment. A key example is the stepped evolution of the oxygenation state of the surface Earth, from one essentially devoid of molecular oxygen (O2) to the modern surface planet with its O2-rich oceans and atmosphere. In parallel, life on Earth has evolved from single-celled prokaryotic organisms, through the advent of eukaryotes and multi-cellularity, to the complex animals and plants of the modern biosphere. Transitions in the physicochemical character of the surface Earth are often temporally closely associated with revolutions in the biosphere, but cause and effect relationships between the two are hotly debated.The Earth surface chemistry of many transition metals is redox-sensitive so that their abundances in the oceans, for example, are a function of the degree of oxygenation of the surface Earth. Moreover, metals are vital to life, and the availability of specific metals has been suggested to help shape the evolution of the biosphere from the Archean to the present. Redox transitions as well as organismal interactions are accompanied by significant isotope fractionations of these elements. Thus paired records of the abundance and isotopic composition of transition metals in sedimentary rocks have become mainstream tools for the study of the evolution of the surface Earth and its biosphere. The development of metal isotope systems, and their application to the study of Earth history, is one of the core pursuits of the Surface Earth Geochemistry group at ETH Zürich, and we have helped to pioneer this new sub-discipline of isotope geochemistry. This proposal represents a follow-up to two previous SNF projects. Here we seek to continue our effort to develop the transition metal isotope systems into more robust tools, through experiments and observations of modern systems. And we aim to use them to understand two key periods of Earth history that have seen major changes in both the Earth’s environment and its biosphere. We sub-divide the proposal into four sub-projects outlined below.Sub-project A will allow a late-starting PhD student on one of the previous projects to complete. Sub-project B seeks funding for a post-doctoral researcher to continue our fundamental work to characterise isotope fractionations experimentally, and the work on modern processes and cycles that have allowed us to place interpretation of the geological record of transition metals on a sounder footing. Sub-project C would fund a doctoral student to work on a truly remarkable period of Earth history, the Neo-Proterozoic-Phanerozoic transition. Key features of this period is a pulsed and stuttering emergence of the oceans from anoxia, accompanied by profound changes in the biosphere and multiple global glaciations. We argue that cause and effect relationships in this complex transition can only be achieved through a new approach applied at the highest resolution the rock record allows. Sub-project D would fund a doctoral student to work on another of the remarkable periods of Earth history, the late Archean and early Proterozoic, with the primary aim of using a multi-metal isotopic approach to track a hypothesised switch away from an ocean and atmosphere dominated by methanogenic organisms.
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