Iron isotopic fractionation during continental weathering

Matthew S. Fantle, Donald J. DePaolo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

180 Scopus citations


The effect of continental weathering on the iron isotope compositions of natural materials is investigated. Unweathered igneous rocks, pelagic clay, and dust fall within the range δ56 Fe=0±0.3‰. Rivers with large suspended loads also have δ56Fe values near zero. Dilute streams have δ56Fe values that trend towards lower δ56Fe (∼-1) suggesting that dissolved riverine iron is isotopically light relative to igneous rocks. Bulk soil and soil leaches display systematically different δ56Fe profiles, indicating that isotopically distinct Fe pools are generated during pedogenesis. Nannofossil ooze, which contains Fe scavenged from the ocean water column, has δ56Fe≉0, but is consistent with seawater dissolved Fe having negative δ56Fe. It is inferred that continental weathering under modern oxidizing Earth surface conditions preferentially releases dissolved Fe with negative δ56Fe, which is transported in rivers to the ocean. A preliminary analysis of the marine Fe budget suggests that riverine Fe has a substantial role in determining the δ56Fe of both the modern and ancient oceans, but other inputs, particularly that from diagenesis of marine sediments, may also be important. Since the chemical pathways of Fe processing during weathering are dependent on oxidation state and biological activity, Fe isotopes may prove useful for detecting changes in these parameters in the geologic past.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)547-562
Number of pages16
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Dec 15 2004

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science


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