Science China Earth Sciences

, Volume 58, Issue 11, pp 1901–1909 | Cite as

A theoretical prediction of chemical zonation in early oceans (>520 Ma)

  • Chao LiEmail author
  • Meng Cheng
  • Thomas J. Algeo
  • ShuCheng Xie
Research Paper


Early oceans (>520 Ma) were characterized by widespread water-column anoxia, stratification, and limited oxidant availability, which are comparable to the chemical characteristics of modern marine sedimentary pore-waters in productive continental margins. Based on this similarity and our current understanding of the formation mechanism of early Earth ocean chemistry, we propose an idealized chemical zonation model for early oceans that includes the following redox zones (from shallow nearshore to deep offshore regions): oxic, nitrogenous (NO 3 - -NO 2 - -enriched), manganous-ferruginous (Mn2+ or Fe2+-enriched), sulfidic (H2S-enriched), methanic (CH4-enriched), and ferruginous (Fe2+-enriched). These zones were dynamically maintained by a combination of processes including surface-water oxygenation by atmospheric free oxygen, nitrate reduction beneath the chemocline, nearshore manganese-iron reduction, sulfate reduction, methanogenesis, and hydrothermal Fe2+ inputs from the deep ocean. Our modified “euxinic wedge” model expands on previous versions of this model, providing a more complete theoretical framework for the chemical zonation of early Earth oceans that helps to explain observations of unusual Mo-S-C isotope patterns. This model may provide a useful foundation for future studies of ocean chemistry evolution and elemental biogeochemical cycles in early Earth history.


Proterozoic early Cambrian oceanic redox chemistry anoxia euxinia 


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Copyright information

© Science China Press and Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Chao Li
    • 1
    Email author
  • Meng Cheng
    • 1
    • 2
  • Thomas J. Algeo
    • 1
    • 3
    • 4
  • ShuCheng Xie
    • 1
  1. 1.State Key Laboratory of Biogeology and Environmental GeologyChina University of GeosciencesWuhanChina
  2. 2.School of Earth SciencesChina University of GeosciencesWuhanChina
  3. 3.State Key Laboratory of Geological Processes and Mineral ResourcesChina University of GeosciencesWuhanChina
  4. 4.Department of GeologyUniversity of CincinnatiCincinnatiU.S.A.

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