Mercury in marine Ordovician/Silurian boundary sections of South China is sulfide-hosted and non-volcanic in origin

Published on Apr 1, 2019in Earth and Planetary Science Letters4.823
· DOI :10.1016/J.EPSL.2019.01.028
Jun Shen23
Estimated H-index: 23
(China University of Geosciences (Wuhan)),
Jun Shen21
Estimated H-index: 21
(Yale University)
+ 4 AuthorsJinling Liu20
Estimated H-index: 20
(China University of Geosciences)
Abstract Mercury (Hg) enrichment in stratigraphic successions is now widely used as a proxy for volcanic inputs, often for the purpose of documenting a relationship between large igneous province (LIP) magmatism and ecosystem perturbations. Earlier studies of Hg in Ordovician/Silurian boundary (OSB) sections in South China and Laurentia identified transient spikes in Hg/TOC ratios, on the basis of which a link between volcanism and the Late Ordovician mass extinction (LOME) was claimed. However, Hg enrichments must be tested based on normalization to their main host phase, and Hg/TOC is a suitable proxy only if Hg is mainly complexed by organic matter in the sediment. Here, we demonstrate that Hg in three OSB sections in South China (Qiliao, Yanzhi, and Jiaoye) is overwhelmingly associated with pyrite, as shown by r(Hg–TS) > 0.9 (versus r(Hg–TOC) Δ 199 Hg) values (+0.11 ± 0.03‰) that are inconsistent with volcanic inputs. We therefore infer that previous reports of Hg enrichments in OSB sections were due to the presence of Hg-rich sulfides, and that Hg data from both the present and earlier studies provide no evidence of any volcanic influences on the LOME. The results of the present study highlight the need for caution in applying the Hg proxy for volcanic inputs and the importance of evaluating the main host phase of Hg in paleo-marine sediments.
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