Uranium isotope cycling on the highly productive Peruvian margin

S. Bruggmann, G. J. Gilleaudeau, S. J. Romaniello, S. Severmann, D. E. Canfield, A. D. Anbar, F. Scholz, R. Frei

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Uranium isotopes (δ238U values) in ancient sedimentary rocks (shales, carbonate rocks) are widely used as a tool to reconstruct paleo-redox conditions, but the behaviour of U isotopes under modern non-sulfidic anoxic vs. oxic conditions remains poorly constrained. We present U concentration and isotope data for modern sediments from the Peruvian margin, a highly productive open ocean environment with a range of redox conditions. To investigate U in different host fractions of the sediment (reactive, silicate, and HNO3-soluble fraction), we conducted a series of sequential extractions. Detrital-corrected authigenic U isotope compositions (δ238Uauth) in sediments deposited beneath an oxic water column show little deviation from the dissolved seawater U source, while anoxically deposited sediments have δ238Uauth values that are up to 0.4‰ heavier compared to seawater δ238U. Under anoxic, non-euxinic conditions, the U isotope offset between sediment and seawater is larger compared with oxic, but significantly smaller when compared with euxinic conditions from the literature. The results from sequential extractions show that the reactive sediment fraction records more pronounced differences in δ238Ureactive than δ238Uauth values depending on the oxidation state of the overlying water column. Furthermore, we found a strong correlation between total organic carbon (TOC) and both U concentrations (Uauth) and δ238Uauth values (R2 = 0.70 and 0.94, respectively) at the persistently anoxic site that we examined. These correlations can be caused by several processes including U isotope fractionation during microbially-mediated U reduction at the sediment-water interface (diffusive U input), during sorption onto and/or incorporation into organic matter in the water column (particulate U input) and diagenetic redistribution of U, or a combination of these processes. Our data show that several factors can influence δ238U values including oxidation state of U, the presence or absence of hydrogen sulfide and organic matter. These findings add new constraints to the degree of U isotope fractionation associated with U incorporation into sediments in different low-oxygen environments, thus aiding in interpretation of ancient paleo-redox conditions from U isotope data.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number120705
JournalChemical Geology
StatePublished - Feb 20 2022


  • Anoxic
  • Non-euxinic
  • Productivity
  • Redox proxy
  • Sequential extraction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geology
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


Dive into the research topics of 'Uranium isotope cycling on the highly productive Peruvian margin'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this