The Ancient Anoxic Biosphere Was Not As We Know It

  • A.E. Fallick
  • V.A. Melezhik
  • B.M. Simonson


A previously unreported observation is that whereas c. post-2000 Ma sedimentary rocks commonly contain microbially mediated, 13C-depleted carbonate concretions, such features are largely absent in older rocks. Excluding banded iron formations, δ 13C of sedimentary and diagenetic carbonates of the older rocks are ˜ 0 ± 3%; VPDB and are not characteristic of microbially recycled organic matter. We propose that c. pre-2000 Ma the biosphere operated in a different mode compared to the modern. Organic matter remineralisation was predominantly in the anoxic water column and sediment–water interface and rarely within sediments. Isotopically distinctive CO2 and CH4 readily escaped to atmosphere leaving no vestige as diagenetic carbonates. Around c. 2000 Ma, in response to the now oxic near-surface conditions, the anaerobic recycling microorganisms retreated deep into sediments to escape poisonous dioxygen. Redox gradients developed in the sedimentary column and abundant 12C-rich carbonate concretions then formed using recycled organic carbon, as observed in the Phanerozoic world.


Carbon Isotope Greenstone Belt Band Iron Formation Kaapvaal Craton Fennoscandian Shield 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • A.E. Fallick
    • 1
  • V.A. Melezhik
    • 1
  • B.M. Simonson
    • 1
  1. 1.Scottish Universities Environmental Research CentreGlasgowScotland

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