Global Neoproterozoic (Sturtian) post-glacial sulfide-sulfur isotope anomaly recognised in Namibia

Paul Gorjan, Malcolm R. Walter*, Roger Swart

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Citations (Scopus)


The Neoproterozoic Earth experienced at least two, probably global, glaciations. Each glaciation was superceded by deposition of a layer of carbonate ('cap-carbonate') that has a distinctive lithology and depletion in 13C (δ13Ccarbonate ∼ -5‰). The ∼700 Ma Sturtian glaciation is followed by deposition of a cap-carbonate and post-glacial succession which contain bacterially produced sulfides extremely enriched in 34S (average δ34Ssulfide ∼ +30‰) with maximum values up to +60‰. This level of 34S enrichment in sulfides is unique to the Sturtian post-glacial succession and recognised in Australia, Canada, and China. In the Neoproterozoic of the Nama Basin, Namibia, the Gobabis Member is the basal unit of the Court Formation, which overlies the glacial Blaubeker Formation. δ13Ccarbonate analyses from the Gobabis Member range from -5.2 to -2.2‰ (average = -3.7‰; n = 10). δ34Ssulfide ranges from +16.1 to +61.1‰ (average = +37.6‰; n = 8). These results are consistent with a Sturtian age for the Blaubeker Formation and overlying Gobabis Member, which have previously been interpreted as Sturtian. The sulfur isotopic results are comparable with δ34Ssulfide in Sturtian post-glacial units of Australia, Canada and China. This adds to the evidence for correlation of the Blaubeker Formation with Sturtian glaciations on other continents. The cause of such elevated δ34Ssulfide is enigmatic. Geochemical evidence suggests the sulfide was not formed from low sulfate waters nor in euxinic conditions, which discounts any known modern analogue. 34S enrichment in sulfides is therefore postulated to be caused by enrichment of 34S in contemporaneous seawater (δ34Ssulfate up to +60‰?). The rise in seawater δ34Ssulfate is considered to be the result of intense bacterial sulfate reduction in an anoxic ocean during the Sturtian glaciation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)89-98
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of African Earth Sciences
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2003


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