High fluxes of iron minerals associated with aeolian dry deposition may result in anomalously high reactive iron content and fast reoxidation of hydrogen sulphide in the sediments that prevents pyrite formation and results in “cryptic” sulphur cycle. In this work, we studied cycling of iron and sulphur in the deep-water (> 800 m water depth) sediments of the Red Sea and its northern extension, Gulf of Aqaba. We found that reactive iron content in the surface sediments of the Gulf of Aqaba and the Red Sea is high, while the content of sulphur-bound iron is very low and decreases with water depth. The presence of pyrite traces and zero-valent sulfur as well as isotopic compositions of sulphate and pyrite, which are consistent with sulphate reduction under substrate-limiting conditions, suggest that cryptic sulfur cycling is likely to be a result of fast reoxidation of hydrogen sulfide rather than microbial sulfate reduction suppression. In the sediments of Shaban Deep, which are overlain with hyper-saline hydrothermal brine, low reactive iron and high organic carbon contents result in a non-cryptic sulphur cycle characterized by preservation of pyrite in the sediments.
Thematic collection: This article is part of the Sulfur in the Earth system collection available at: https://www.lyellcollection.org/cc/sulfur-in-the-earth-system