Sulfur cycling in a stratified euxinic lake with moderately high sulfate: Constraints from quadruple S isotopes

Aubrey L. Zerkle*, Alexey Kamyshny, Lee R. Kump, James Farquhar, Harry Oduro, Michael A. Arthur

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

105 Scopus citations


We present a 3-year study of concentrations and sulfur isotope values (δ34S, Δ33S, and Δ36S) of sulfur compounds in the water column of Fayetteville Green Lake (NY, USA), a stratified (meromictic) euxinic lake with moderately high sulfate concentrations (12-16mM). We utilize our results along with numerical models (including transport within the lake) to identify and quantify the major biological and abiotic processes contributing to sulfur cycling in the system. The isotope values of sulfide and zero-valent sulfur across the redox-interface (chemocline) change seasonally in response to changes in sulfide oxidation processes. In the fall, sulfide oxidation occurs primarily via abiotic reaction with oxygen, as reflected by an increase in sulfide δ34S at the redox interface. Interestingly, S isotope values for zero-valent sulfur sampled at this time still reflect production and recycling by phototrophic S-oxidation. In the spring, sulfide S isotope values suggest an increased input from phototrophic oxidation, consistent with a more pronounced phototroph population at the chemocline. This trend is associated with smaller fractionations between sulfide and zero-valent sulfur, suggesting a metabolic rate control on fractionation similar to that for sulfate reduction. Comparison of our data with previous studies indicates that the S isotope values of sulfate and sulfide in the deep waters are remarkably stable over long periods of time, with consistently large fractionations of up to 58‰ in δ34S. Models of the δ34S and Δ33S trends in the deep waters (considering mass transport via diffusion and advection along with biological processes) require that these fractionations are a consequence of sulfur compound disproportionation at and below the redox interface in addition to large fractionations during sulfate reduction. The large fractionations during sulfate reduction appear to be a consequence of the high sulfate concentrations and the distribution of organic matter in the water column. The occurrence of disproportionation in the lake is supported by profiles of intermediate sulfur compounds and by lake microbiology, but is not evident from the δ34S trends alone. These results illustrate the utility of including minor S isotopes in sulfur isotope studies to unravel complex sulfur cycling in natural systems.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)4953-4970
Number of pages18
JournalGeochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
Issue number17
StatePublished - Sep 2010
Externally publishedYes


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