Book Review: Triple Oxygen Isotope Geochemistry. (2021) Edited by Ilya N. Bindeman and Andreas Pack. Reviews in Mineralogy and Geochemistry, Volume 86. Mineralogical Society of America. ISBN 978-1-946850-06-5, i-xv1 + 496 pages. $50.00.
Very often the volumes of the MSA Reviews In Mineral-ogy and Geochemistry series summarize knowledge of well-established geoscience research fields. RIMG 86 Triple oxygen isotope geochemistry is somewhat different in that it reports findings of a new and rapidly evolving area of stable isotope geochemistry: that is, the isotope geochemistry of the rare isotope 17O. Readers interested in isotope geochemistry will be aware of the importance of the 18O/16O ratio across the breadth of the geosciences that includes its application to thermometric and hydrologic problems. But what about 17O/16O ratios? This is the theme of the book. For many years it was assumed that measurements of the 17O/16O ratio were not necessary, because its variations should track 18O/16O variations at about half the magnitude. Although this is generally correct, recent progress in mass spectrometry now permits the determination of very small variations of 17O with high precision.
The editors, Ilya Bindeman and Andreas Pack, have been successful in bringing the leading experts in this exciting area of isotope geochemistry together in a most timely volume. The book is divided into 14 chapters written typically by two authors; three manuscripts are single authored, one is written by three, and another by four authors. The book excludes cosmochemical topics, but otherwise covers a large spectrum of topics in geochemistry concentrating on 17O variations in the different domains of the Earth sciences. Examples range from calculations of theoretical 17O/16O fractionations using first principles density functional theory to the formation of Precambrian cherts, from continental climate reconstruction to interactions of atmospheric oxygen with rocks and minerals. Every chapter ends with an outlook for future research directions that together suggest that 17O isotope geochemistry potentially has even more applications than investigated to date.
Triple oxygen isotope geochemistry can be divided into two broad themes: (1) the relatively large mass-independent 17O variations (MIF) observed in the atmosphere and in meteorites, and (2) the small mass-dependent fractionations observed in all geological reservoirs. Maybe the greatest potential of 17O analysis is the possibility it offers to distinguish between equilibrium and disequilibrium (kinetic) isotope effects in chemical sediments and metasomatic alteration products. Furthermore, 17O geochemistry allows the reconstruction of conditions of primary formation of different geological materials, whether samples have preserved their primary composition or have been diagenetically overprinted. This distinction may be used to constrain the long-standing problem of the O-isotope composition of paleo-ocean water, in particular that of the Precambrian ocean.
In Chapter 1, Miller and Pack present a historical perspective of the development of oxygen isotope measurements with the focus on 17O. They introduce triple oxygen definitions and notations and give some Earth science applications of triple oxygen measurements.
Chapter 2 by Thiemens and Lin reviews the discovery of Mass-Independent Fractionation (MIF) effects and their relevance for the solar system. Mark Thiemens as one of the explorers of mass-independent fractionation effects is especially suited for writing this chapter. After discussing the basic theories of MIF, a new “Chemical Mechanism Model” is proposed to explain triple oxygen isotope fractionations in meteorites and the solar system.
Chapter 3 with the title “Climbing to the top of Mount Fuji: uniting theory and observations of oxygen triple systematics” by Yeung and Hayles discusses chemical models for triple oxygen isotope effects. The somewhat grandiloquent title suggests a successful voyage to complex theories in isotope chemistry and summarizes what theory predicts for triple oxygen isotope variability in chemical processes.
Using first principles density functional theory, Schauble and Young in Chapter 4 calculate isotope equilibrium factors for a suite of common minerals and molecules. They show that the models used for the calculation of 18O/16O fractionation factors predict 17O/16O fractionations with similar accuracy.
In Chapter 5, Sharp and Wostbrock report internationally agreed standardization and correction factors of measured isotope ratios. Although not always regarded as being very exciting, standardization and correction factors are very important issues for 17O determinations, since the errors induced by correction factors may be far larger than the measured differences themselves.
Brinjikji and Lyons review in Chapter 6 models for mass-independent isotope fractionations of oxygen in the lower atmosphere. They discuss O isotopes in the atmosphere below 100 km with a focus on ozone formation and its interaction with other oxygen-containing species. In the second part of their article, they present a model for the Earth’s atmosphere above 100 km, where diffusive separation leads to strong depletions of 17O and 18O in atomic oxygen, the main oxygen component in the upper atmosphere.
The article by Pack in Chapter 7 describes the interactions of atmospheric elemental oxygen with rocks, minerals, and melts. The 17O composition of the Earth’s atmosphere is rather unique and can be used as a characteristic geochemical fingerprint. Pack summarizes evidence for interactions of atmospheric oxygen with small meteoritic fragments, the only samples older than one million years in which the composition of atmospheric oxygen can be reconstructed.
Bindeman considers in Chapter 8 the triple oxygen isotope evolution of clastic sediments and granites over the 4 Gyr evolution of the Earth and describes how 17O analyses provide new insight into weathering conditions of the recent and ancient hydrosphere. A new 18O time curve is presented for shales, which like those for carbonates and cherts exhibit a decrease in 18O with age.
In Chapter 9, Herwartz describes 17O variations in high-temperature rocks, which compared to their low-temperature counterparts are more difficult to resolve. He discusses the basic systematics of triple oxygen isotopes during water/rock interactions, giving particular attention to assimilation, dehydration, and decarbonation processes.
Zakharov, Marin-Carbonne, Alleon, and Bindeman focus on the oxygen isotope composition of cherts in Chapter 10. They present unpublished data for selected Precambrian cherts that combine bulk rock and in-situ ion microprobe measurements to determine exactly which chemical signals have been preserved in ancient cherts. The combination of high-resolution small-scale data and bulk rock data enabled the disentanglement of the signals from early and late generations of quartz.
Wostbrock and Sharp in Chapter 11 review low-temperature triple oxygen isotope fractionations in the silica-water and carbonate-water systems. Adding 17O to the traditional 18O determination allows the recognition and distinction of equilibrium and disequilibrium fractionation. Furthermore, 17O analysis clearly indicates whether fossil carbonate organisms have preserved their primary depositional information. All samples investigated by the authors clearly indicate a diagenetic overprint.
Chapters 12 and 13 consider the triple oxygen isotope composition of water. In Chapter 12, Surma, Assonov, and Staubwasser summarize 17O excess values of water worldwide and show that the temperature-independent 17O parameter is a powerful tracer for estimating paleohumidity during evaporation of water bodies. Passey and Levin in Chapter 13 apply triple oxygen isotope to the study of water cycles in lakes, plants, and animals. Since leaf and body water have been affected by evaporation, 17O compositions in plants and animals have a characteristic signature, that may be even traced in continental carbonates and biological apatites.
In the final chapter, Cao and Bao discuss the origin of small 17O variations in low-temperature sulfate. The oxygen isotope composition of sulfate originates from multiple oxygen sources. Large mass-independent 17O fractionations in sulfates may originate from interactions with stratospheric ozone. By examining the small, mass-dependent 17O fractionations in rivers and lakes, the different pathways of sulfur cycling at present and in the geological past may be revealed.
Summarizing, this volume presents a well-balanced overview of the present state of the art of 17O isotope geochemistry across the geosciences. The editors have to be congratulated providing a multi-authored book with articles that are cohesive and have little overlap. As 17O geochemistry will continue to expand and evolve, more applications and new insight into long-standing geological problems can be expected. For students interested in and researchers investigating stable isotopes, the book is an absolute must.