|Picard, A; Gartman, A; Cosmidis, J; Obst, M; Vidoudez, C; Clarke, DR; Girguis, PR: Authigenic metastable iron sulfide minerals preserve microbial organic carbon in anoxic environments, Chemical Geology (2019), doi:10.1016/j.chemgeo.2019.119343|
The burial of organic carbon (OC) in sedimentary environments promotes long-term carbon sequestration and allows the release of oxygen in the atmosphere. OC preservation in sedimentary environments is commonly enhanced during transport and deposition on the seabed through the association with terrigenous minerals that can serve as physical protectants. Here, we propose an authigenic mechanism for the coupled preservation of labile OC and metastable iron sulfide minerals under anoxic conditions. Sulfate-reducing microorganisms (SRM) are ubiquitous in anoxic environments and produce the majority of free sulfide in marine sediments, leading to the formation of iron sulfide minerals in situ. Using high spatial resolution microscopy, spectroscopy and spectro-microscopy, we show that iron sulfide biominerals precipitated in the presence of SRM incorporate and adsorb organic molecules, leading to the formation of stable organo-mineral aggregates that could persist for years in anoxic environments. OC/iron sulfide assemblages consist of the metastable iron sulfide mineral phases mackinawite and/or greigite, along with labile organic compounds derived from new microbial biomass or from extracellular organic molecules released by SRM. Together these results underscore the role that a major group of anoxic microbes play in OC preservation and illustrate the value of the resulting authigenic metastable iron sulfide minerals mackinawite and greigite in protecting labile organic molecules from degradation over time.