Københavns Universitet
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PhD thesis defense

Sylvie Bruggmann defends her thesis about the chromium isotope system

PhD thesis defense — Sylvie Bruggmann defence at IGN


Date & Time:

Auditorium B, Department of Geosciences and Natural Resource Management, Øster Voldgade 10, 1350 Kbh K

Hosted by:
Geology Section, IGN


Sylvie Bruggmann defends her thesis,

Assessing the potential of the chromium isotope system to record redox changes

Professor Robert Frei, IGN

Assessment Committee:
Professor Thomas Naegler, Institut für Geologie, University of Bern – Switzerland
Professor Rachael James, University of Southampton Waterfront Campus – UK
Professor Tod Waight (chair), IGN

Due to the redox-sensitivity of chromium (Cr), ratios of Cr isotopes (δ53Cr) are thought to be useful tracers of changes in the oxygenation state of seawater. Cr isotope ratios in sedimentary rocks thus allow reconstructions of past oceanic (and potentially atmospheric) redox conditions. Despite the extensive use of the Cr isotope system as redox proxy, processes controlling Cr (isotope) cycling are not fully understood.
This thesis investigates modern seawater samples coupled to siliciclastic sediments and biogenic carbonates for their Cr concentrations and δ53Cr values. The collected data contribute to elucidating Cr isotope fractionation effects accompanying Cr uptake into sediments and to better characterising the potential of sediments to record the δ53Cr values of the environment within which they formed. Analysis of modern seawater samples from restricted and open marine conditions reveal that variations in Cr concentrations and isotopic compositions are controlled by local dynamics of biochemical parameters. For example, Cr fractionation caused by sorption to organic matter or mixing of water-masses with distinct Cr pools seem to have a stronger impact on the Cr isotopic composition of a water sample than the oxygenation state. Still, δ53Cr values of siliciclastic sediments correspond to the oxygenation state of the overlying water column, confirming the redox-sensitivity of Cr isotopes at least under some circumstances. Mollusc shells were found to incorporate heterogeneous δ53Cr values that are strongly affected by vital effects as well as by salinity and organic matter. Although Cr accumulation in microbialites is poorly constrained, they seem to incorporate distinct d53Cr values that may reflect both the conditions of the environment in which they precipitated and the microbial metabolism involved.
Mechanisms other than redox changes (e.g. vital effects) challenge the use of Cr isotopes for redox reconstructions. Analyses of coupled modern seawater and geological samples support that Cr isotopes have the potential to record redox conditions of past environments. However, the limitations of this potential have to be better constrained and archives that may allow reliable interpretations of δ53Cr values have to be further characterised.

The thesis is available for inspection at the PhD administration office, 04.1.413