Simulating Precambrian banded iron formation diagenesis


Posth NR, Kohler I, Swanner ED, Schröder C, Wellmann E, Binder B, Konhauser KO, Neumann U, Berthold C, Nowak M & Kappler A (2013) Simulating Precambrian banded iron formation diagenesis. Chemical Geology, 362, pp. 66-73.

Post-depositional diagenetic alteration makes the accurate interpretation of key precipitation processes in ancient sediments, such as Precambrian banded iron formations (BIFs), difficult. While microorganisms are proposed as key contributors to BIF deposition, the diagenetic transformation of precursor Fe(III) minerals associated with microbial biomass had not been experimentally tested. We incubated mixtures of ferrihydrite (proxy for biogenic ferric oxyhydroxide minerals) and glucose (proxy for microbial biomass) in gold capsules at 1.2 kbar and 170°C. Both wet chemical analysis and mineralogical methods (microscopy, X-ray diffraction and Mössbauer spectroscopy) were used to analyze the reaction products. Under these conditions, ferrihydrite (FeIII(OH)3) transforms to hematite (Fe2IIIO3), magnetite (FeIIFe2IIIO4), and siderite (FeIICO3). Silica-coated ferrihydrite prepared at conservative Si:Fe ratios (as predicted for the Precambrian oceans) and mixed with glucose yielded hematite and siderite, whereas magnetite could not be identified microscopically. Our results show that electron transfer from organic carbon to Fe(III) minerals during temperature/pressure diagenesis can drive the production of key BIF minerals. Our results also demonstrate that the post-depositional mineralogy of BIF does not directly archive the oceanic or atmospheric conditions present on Earth during their lithification. As a consequence, atmospheric composition regarding concentrations of methane and CO2 during the time of BIF mineral deposition cannot be directly inferred from BIF mineralogical data alone.

Mineral diagenesis; Mineral transformations; Banded iron formations; Anoxygenic phototrophs; Biogenic minerals

Chemical Geology: Volume 362

Publication date31/12/2013