Skip to content

Research at St Andrews

Biological regulation of atmospheric chemistry en route to planetary oxygenation

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Author(s)

Gareth Izon, Aubrey L. Zerkle, Kenneth Williford, James Farquhar, Simon Poulton, Mark W. Claire

School/Research organisations

Abstract

Emerging evidence suggests that atmospheric oxygen may have varied before rising irreversibly ∼2.4 billion years ago, during the Great Oxidation Event (GOE). Significantly, however, pre-GOE atmospheric aberrations toward more reducing conditions—featuring a methane-derived organic-haze—have recently been suggested, yet their occurrence, causes, and significance remain underexplored. To examine the role of haze formation in Earth’s history, we targeted an episode of inferred haze development. Our redox-controlled (Fe-speciation) carbon- and sulfur-isotope record reveals sustained systematic stratigraphic covariance, precluding nonatmospheric explanations. Photochemical models corroborate this inference, showing Δ36S/Δ33S ratios are sensitive to the presence of haze. Exploiting existing age constraints, we estimate that organic haze developed rapidly, stabilizing within ∼0.3 ± 0.1 million years (Myr), and persisted for upward of ∼1.4 ± 0.4 Myr. Given these temporal constraints, and the elevated atmospheric CO2 concentrations in the Archean, the sustained methane fluxes necessary for haze formation can only be reconciled with a biological source. Correlative δ13COrg and total organic carbon measurements support the interpretation that atmospheric haze was a transient response of the biosphere to increased nutrient availability, with methane fluxes controlled by the relative availability of organic carbon and sulfate. Elevated atmospheric methane concentrations during haze episodes would have expedited planetary hydrogen loss, with a single episode of haze development providing up to 2.6–18 × 1018 moles of O2 equivalents to the Earth system. Our findings suggest the Neoarchean likely represented a unique state of the Earth system where haze development played a pivotal role in planetary oxidation, hastening the contingent biological innovations that followed.
Close

Details

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2571-2579
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Volume114
Issue number13
Early online date13 Mar 2017
DOIs
StatePublished - 28 Mar 2017

Discover related content
Find related publications, people, projects and more using interactive charts.

View graph of relations

Related by author

  1. Two-billion-year-old evaporites capture Earth's great oxidation

    Blättler, C., Claire, M., Prave, A. R., Zerkle, A. L. & Warke, M. R. 22 Mar 2018 In : Science. eaar2687

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  2. High-frequency fluctuations in redox conditions during the latest Permian mass extinction

    Mettam, C., Zerkle, A. L., Claire, M. W., Izon, G., Junium, C. J. & Twitchett, R. J. 1 Nov 2017 In : Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology. 485, p. 210-223

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  3. Onset of the aerobic nitrogen cycle during the Great Oxidation Event

    Zerkle, A. L., Poulton, S. W., Newton, R. J., Mettam, C., Claire, M. W., Bekker, A. & Junium, C. K. 23 Feb 2017 In : Nature. 542, p. 465-467 10 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalLetter

  4. Multiple oscillations in Neoarchaean atmospheric chemistry

    Izon, G., Zerkle, A. L., Zhelezinskaya, Y., Farquhar, J., Newton, R. J., Poulton, S. W., Eigenbrode, J. L. & Claire, M. 1 Dec 2015 In : Earth and Planetary Science Letters. 431, p. 264-273

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  5. Pathways for Neoarchean pyrite formation constrained by mass-independent sulfur isotopes

    Farquhar, J., Cliff, J., Zerkle, A. L., Kamyshny, A., Poulton, S. W., Claire, M., Adams, D. & Harms, B. 29 Oct 2013 In : Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 110, 44, p. 17638-17643

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Related by journal

  1. Ancient polymorphisms and divergence hitchhiking contribute to genomic islands of divergence within a poplar species complex

    Ma, T., Wang, K., Hu, Q., Xi, Z., Wan, D., Wang, Q., Feng, J., Jiang, D., Ahani, H., Abbott, R. J., Lascoux, M., Nevo, E. & Liu, J. 9 Jan 2018 In : Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 115, 2, p. E236-E243 8 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  2. Divergent biodiversity change within ecosystems

    Magurran, A. E., Deacon, A. E., Moyes, F. H., Shimadzu, H., Azeredo de Dornelas, M. A., Phillip, D. & Ramnarine, I. 20 Feb 2018 In : Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 115, 8, p. 1843-1847 5 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  3. Eocene greenhouse climate revealed by coupled clumped isotope-Mg/Ca thermometry

    Evans, D., Sagoo, N., Renema, W., Cotton, L. J., Müller, W., Todd, J. A., Saraswati, P. K., Stassen, P., Ziegler, M., Pearson, P. N., Valdes, P. J. & Affek, H. P. Feb 2018 In : Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 115, 6, p. 1174-1179 6 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  4. Linear response of east Greenland’s tidewater glaciers to ocean/atmosphere warming

    Cowton, T., Sole, A., Nienow, P., Slater, D. & Christoffersen, P. 16 Jul 2018 In : Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. Latest Articles

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  5. Molecular mechanism of activation of human musk receptors OR5AN1 and OR1A1 by (R)-muscone and diverse other musk-smelling compounds

    Ahmed, L., Zhang, Y., Block, E., Buehl, M., Corr, M. J., Cormanich, R. A., Gundala, S., Matsunami, H., O'Hagan, D., Ozbil, M., Pan, Y., Sekharan, S., Ten, N., Wang, M., Yang, M., Zhang, Q., Zhang, R., Batista, V. & Zhuang, H. 24 Apr 2018 In : Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 115, 17, p. E3950-E3958 9 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

Related by journal

  1. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (Journal)

    Nevels, M. M. (Guest editor)
    Jul 2016 → …

    Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial workEditor of research journal

  2. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (Journal)

    Gaggiotti, O. E. (Member of editorial board)
    1 Jan 2013 → …

    Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial workPeer review of manuscripts

  3. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (Journal)

    Smith, T. K. (Member of editorial board)
    2012 → …

    Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial workPeer review of manuscripts

  4. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (Journal)

    Smith, T. K. (Member of editorial board)
    2008 → …

    Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial workPeer review of manuscripts

  5. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (Journal)

    Miles, G. B. (Reviewer)
    2006 → …

    Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial workPeer review of manuscripts

ID: 249094997