Multiple sulfur isotopes fractionations associated with abiotic sulfur transformations in Yellowstone National Park geothermal springs

Alexey Kamyshny*, Gregory Druschel, Zahra F. Mansaray, James Farquhar

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


Background: The paper presents a quantification of main (hydrogen sulfide and sulfate), as well as of intermediate sulfur species (zero-valent sulfur (ZVS), thiosulfate, sulfite, thiocyanate) in the Yellowstone National Park (YNP) hydrothermal springs and pools. We combined these measurements with the measurements of quadruple sulfur isotope composition of sulfate, hydrogen sulfide and zero-valent sulfur. The main goal of this research is to understand multiple sulfur isotope fractionation in the system, which is dominated by complex, mostly abiotic, sulfur cycling.Results: Water samples from six springs and pools in the Yellowstone National Park were characterized by pH, chloride to sulfate ratios, sulfide and intermediate sulfur species concentrations. Concentrations of sulfate in pools indicate either oxidation of sulfide by mixing of deep parent water with shallow oxic water, or surface oxidation of sulfide with atmospheric oxygen. Thiosulfate concentrations are low (<6 μmol L-1) in the pools with low pH due to fast disproportionation of thiosulfate. In the pools with higher pH, the concentration of thiosulfate varies, depending on different geochemical pathways of thiosulfate formation. The δ34S values of sulfate in four systems were close to those calculated using a mixing line of the model based on dilution and boiling of a deep hot parent water body. In two pools δ34S values of sulfate varied significantly from the values calculated from this model. Sulfur isotope fractionation between ZVS and hydrogen sulfide was close to zero at pH < 4. At higher pH zero-valent sulfur is slightly heavier than hydrogen sulfide due to equilibration in the rhombic sulfur-polysulfide - hydrogen sulfide system. Triple sulfur isotope (32S, 33S, 34S) fractionation patterns in waters of hydrothermal pools are more consistent with redox processes involving intermediate sulfur species than with bacterial sulfate reduction. Small but resolved differences in {increment}33S among species and between pools are observed.Conclusions: The variation of sulfate isotopic composition, the origin of differences in isotopic composition of sulfide and zero-valent sulfur, as well as differences in {increment}33S of sulfide and sulfate are likely due to a complex network of abiotic redox reactions, including disproportionation pathways.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number7
JournalGeochemical Transactions
Issue number1
StatePublished - 28 May 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Hydrothermal springs
  • Isotope geochemistry
  • Multiple sulfur isotopes
  • Sulfide oxidation
  • Sulfur cycle
  • Sulfur disproportionation
  • Yellowstone national park


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