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Theses

Chimie des océans au Paléoprotérozoïque

Abstract : The present-day oxidizing conditions at Earth's surface are due to the high oxygen content of the atmosphere. However, oxygen was not always stable in the terrestrial atmosphere. Two distinct periods during which oxygen increased in a step-like manner were required to reach the current atmospheric oxygen level. The first, at about 2.4 Ga, is known as the Great Oxidation Event (GOE) and is at the core of this Ph.D. thesis. The other, occurring almost two billion years later, is called the Neo-Proterozoic Oxidation Event (NOE). The GOE likely is the result of the beginning widespread emergence of large continental expanses whose subsequent erosion gradually released phosphate into the ocean. Phosphate, a nutrient essential to organic production, in turn allowed the explosion of oxygenated photosynthesis. The GOE and NOE coincide with two major changes in the history of life. Shortly after the GOE, eukaryotes appeared, while the NOE corresponds to the appearance of metazoans and the Cambrian explosion. A better grasp of the GOE hence may have important implications for the understanding of the origin and evolution of life, which is thought to have been mainly marine at this stage in Earth history. The only records of the oxygen level during these ancient times are found in terrestrial sedimentary rocks. To understand how oxygenation of the atmosphere relates to marine life, we must first understand how the ocean was connected to the atmosphere during the GOE and how the GOE affected life-dependent ocean biogeochemical cycles. To this end we focused on banded iron formations (BIF). The chemistry of these sedimentary marine rocks directly reflects the chemistry of the contemporary ocean. Deriving quantitatively the composition of the ocean from a hydrogenous sediment is a challenge almost impossible to meet, even for the modern ocean. This is why we instead determined the residence time of redox-sensitive elements (in this case sulfur, iron, and copper) in the pre-GOE ocean. We specifically targeted the periods of isotopic fluctuations in these elements as recorded in BIF cores. The lower limit of the spectrum provides the residence time of these elements in seawater, hence giving a robust indication of their contents in the pre-GOE ocean. We sampled early Proterozoic BIF near the Archean-Proterozoic boundary in Transvaal (South Africa) and Hamersley (Australia), as well as Archean BIF from Nuvvuagittuq (Canada), though the latter were not analyzed during this thesis due to shortage of time.
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Fanny Thibon. Chimie des océans au Paléoprotérozoïque. Sciences de la Terre. Université de Lyon, 2019. Français. ⟨NNT : 2019LYSEN008⟩. ⟨tel-02142406⟩

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