Incorporation and preservation of molybdenum and uranium isotope variations in modern marine sediments
Molybdenum and uranium isotope variations are potentially powerful tools for reconstructing the paleoredox history of seawater. Reliable application and interpretation of these proxies requires not only detailed knowledge about the fractionation factors that control the distribution of molybdenum and uranium isotopes in the marine system, but also a thorough understanding of the diagenetic processes that may affect molybdenum and uranium isotopes entering the rock record. Using samples from the Black Sea water column, the first water column profile of 238U/235U variations from a modern euxinic basin has been measured. This profile allows the direct determination of the 238U/235U fractionation factor in a euxinic marine setting. More importantly however, these data demonstrate the extent of Rayleigh fractionation of U isotopes that can occur in euxinic restricted basins. Because of this effect, the offset of 238U/235U between global average seawater and coeval black shales deposited in restricted basins is expected to depend on the degree of local uranium drawdown from the water column, potentially complicating the interpretation 238U/235U paleorecords. As an alternative to the black shales typically used for paleoredox reconstructions, molybdenum and uranium isotope variations in bulk carbonate sediments from the Bahamas are examined. The focus of this work was to determine what processes, if any, fractionate molybdenum and uranium isotopes during incorporation into bulk carbonate sediments and their subsequent diagenesis. The results demonstrate that authigenic accumulation of molybdenum and uranium from anoxic and sulfidic pore waters is a dominant process controlling the concentration and isotopic composition of these sediments during early diagenesis. Examination of ODP drill core samples from the Bahamas reveals similar behavior for sediments during the first ~780ka of burial, but provides important examples where isolated cores and samples occasionally demonstrate additional fractionation, the cause of which remains poorly understood.