Iron isotope fractionation during microbial dissimilatory iron oxide reduction in simulated Archaean seawater


Corresponding author: Eric E. Roden. Tel.: +1 608 890 0724; fax: +1 608 262 0693; e-mail:


The largest Fe isotope excursion yet measured in marine sedimentary rocks occurs in shales, carbonates, and banded iron formations of Neoarchaean and Paleoproterozoic age. The results of field and laboratory studies suggest a potential role for microbial dissimilatory iron reduction (DIR) in producing this excursion. However, most experimental studies of Fe isotope fractionation during DIR have been conducted in simple geochemical systems, using pure Fe(III) oxide substrates that are not direct analogues to phases likely to have been present in Precambrian marine environments. In this study, Fe isotope fractionation was investigated during microbial reduction of an amorphous Fe(III) oxide–silica coprecipitate in anoxic, high-silica, low-sulphate artificial Archaean seawater at 30 °C to determine if such conditions alter the extent of reduction or isotopic fractionations relative to those observed in simple systems. The Fe(III)–Si coprecipitate was highly reducible (c. 80% reduction) in the presence of excess acetate. The coprecipitate did not undergo phase conversion (e.g. to green rust, magnetite or siderite) during reduction. Iron isotope fractionations suggest that rapid and near-complete isotope exchange took place among all Fe(II) and Fe(III) components, in contrast to previous work on goethite and hematite, where exchange was limited to the outer few atom layers of the substrate. Large quantities of low-δ56Fe Fe(II) (aqueous and solid phase) were produced during reduction of the Fe(III)–Si coprecipitate. These findings shed new light on DIR as a mechanism for producing Fe isotope variations observed in Neoarchaean and Paleoproterozoic marine sedimentary rocks.