Stable isotope systematics of two cenotes from the northern Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico

Socki, Richard A., Eugene C. Perry, Christopher S. Romanek

Limnol. Oceanogr., 47(6), 2002, 1808-1818 | DOI: 10.4319/lo.2002.47.6.1808

ABSTRACT: Deep water-filled sinkholes, cenotes, are common in the northern Yucatan Peninsula. At least five of these cenotes are deep enough to extend through a freshwater lens of meteoric origin in which δ18O and δD follow the trend δD = 8.11 x δ18O + 10.4. Below this freshwater lies saline water that originated as seawater and has retained its seawater isotopic identity. Deep cenotes, characterized by input of variable amounts of organic debris from tropical vegetation and by poor circulation below the fresh-/saltwater interface, provide excellent water columns in which to study sulfur redox phenomena. Measurements include O, H, and S isotope composition, conductivity, sulfur speciation, and pH from two cenotes (Ucil, 98 m deep, and Xcolac, 125 m deep). Strong 34S enrichment of sulfate and 34S depletion of sulfide indicate anaerobic bacterial reduction of sulfate. A shift in the isotopic composition of sulfur in Xcolac from a seawater value of +21.0‰ (CDT) to +41.8‰ indicates conversion of sulfate to isotopically light sulfide. Mass balance calculations indicate that escape of isotopically light sulfur from the system is a slow process. At 80 m in Xcolac, a difference in sulfur isotope composition between sulfate and sulfide (Δ34S) of 63.2‰ is observed and could be the result of multiple sulfate reduction reactions. Higher in the water column, sulfide oxidation occurs, probably the result of bacterially mediated sulfide oxidation processes. A deep observation well (lacking organic matter input) shows only a slight deviation in sulfur isotope composition of sulfate from seawater values.

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