Carbon- and oxygen-stable isotopic signatures of methanogenesis, temperature, and water column stratification in Holocene siderite varves

Chad Wittkop, Jane Teranes, Brady Lubenow, Walter E. Dean

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


Manganoan siderite ([Fe,Mn]CO3) occurs in abundance of up to 19% (dry weight) as the sole endogenic carbonate within a succession of Holocene, organic-rich, varved sediments from freshwater Otter Lake (OL), Michigan. Radiocarbon dating and varve counts from a 7-m piston core constrain periods of major siderite accumulation to sediments older than 1200calyr BP. Sediment petrography suggests that siderite was a seasonal precipitate confined to the summer layer of the varve couplet. Bulk-sediment chemistry reveals cycles in abundance of manganese and aluminum coincident with centennial-scale cycles of siderite accumulation. Siderite δ13C and δ18O are enriched when the mineral is abundant and depleted when it is least abundant. Samples with high abundance of siderite precipitated in oxygen isotopic equilibrium with modern lake water, but are δ13C enriched relative to modern waters. Samples from intervals of low siderite abundance are δ13C and δ18O depleted relative to equilibrium with modern lake water. These data suggest that abundant siderite precipitation occurred when the OL water column was ferruginous (iron meromictic), allowing for enhanced ferrous iron concentrations and dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) enriched in δ13C below the chemocline, where methanogenesis in waters and sediments influenced DIC composition. Seasonal siderite precipitation was triggered by water column alkalinity fluctuations driven by summer calcite dissolution. Manganese substitution in siderite lowered kinetic barriers to low-temperature mineral precipitation. Climate changes and basin filling influenced lake stratification and the rate of siderite precipitation. The siderite occurrence reported here displays remarkable similarity to its occurrence in Paleogene maar lake deposits, suggesting that further studies of Holocene lacustrine siderites may provide insight into ancient sedimentary systems and environments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)153-166
Number of pages14
JournalChemical Geology
StatePublished - Dec 1 2014

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Erik Ekdahl, James Russell, Doug Schnurrenberger, and Andy Zimmer assisted in the field. Schnurrenberger and Russell also assisted in initial core description, discovered the siderite, and contributed to discussion. Lora Wingate performed stable isotopic analyses, and Tom Guilderson provided radiocarbon analyses and interpretation. Kristina Brady, Ryan Bonney, and Patricia Bordonaro assisted in laboratory analysis. Discussions with Thomas C. Johnson, Herb Wright, Mark Shapley, Amy Myrbo, Scott K. Clark, Christoph Geiss, Tim Ku, and Nate Lorentz benefited this work Fieldwork and initial sediment analysis was funded by NSF-ATM 9980380 to Schnurrenberger and Kerry Kelts, whose enthusiasm for lacustrine carbonates motivated this study. Comments from Lesleigh Anderson, Michael Böttcher, and four anonymous reviewers substantially improved this work. JT was supported by the NOAA Climate and Global Change Program, BL received Minnesota State University Undergraduate Research Foundation awards, and WED was supported by the USGS Earth Surface Dynamics Program. Appendix A

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014 Elsevier B.V.

Copyright 2014 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Ferruginous lake
  • Iron formation
  • Lacustrine
  • Siderite
  • Stable isotopes
  • Varves


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