Uncovering and quantifying the subduction zone sulfur cycle from the slab perspective

Li, J.
Schwarzenbach, E.
John, T.
Ague, J.
Huang, Fang
Gao, J.
Klemd, R.
Whitehouse, M.
Wang, X.
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Ji-Lei Li, Esther M. Schwarzenbach, Timm John, Jay J. Ague, Fang Huang, Jun Gao, Reiner Klemd, Martin J. Whitehouse & Xin-Shui Wang (2020) Uncovering and quantifying the subduction zone sulfur cycle from the slab perspective. Nature Communications 11 (514) https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-019-14110-4
Sulfur belongs among H2O, CO2, and Cl as one of the key volatiles in Earth’s chemical cycles. High oxygen fugacity, sulfur concentration, and δ34S values in volcanic arc rocks have been attributed to significant sulfate addition by slab fluids. However, sulfur speciation, flux, and isotope composition in slab-dehydrated fluids remain unclear. Here, we use high-pressure rocks and enclosed veins to provide direct constraints on subduction zone sulfur recycling for a typical oceanic lithosphere. Textural and thermodynamic evidence indicates the predominance of reduced sulfur species in slab fluids; those derived from metasediments, altered oceanic crust, and serpentinite have δ34S values of approximately −8‰, −1‰, and +8‰, respectively. Mass-balance calculations demonstrate that 6.4% (up to 20% maximum) of total subducted sulfur is released between 30–230 km depth, and the predominant sulfur loss takes place at 70–100 km with a net δ34S composition of −2.5 ± 3‰. We conclude that modest slab-to-wedge sulfur transport occurs, but that slab-derived fluids provide negligible sulfate to oxidize the sub-arc mantle and cannot deliver 34S-enriched sulfur to produce the positive δ34S signature in arc settings. Most sulfur has negative δ34S and is subducted into the deep mantle, which could cause a long-term increase in the δ34S of Earth surface reservoirs.
Nature Communications