Cadmium concentrations and stable isotopic compositions in seawater are important tools for studying the biogeochemical cycling of Cd in the modern oceans and as a proxy for micronutrient utilisation by phytoplankton. It is now well established that Cd isotopes become “heavier” as the primary production in the surface ocean increases, even though the mechanism driving the isotopic fractionation is still debated. Here, we use this property of Cd isotopes to examine changes that took place in the oceans during the emergence of multicellular life in the Neoproterozoic. Isotopic compositions and concentrations of Cd, N and C are reported in shallow-water carbonates of Ediacaran age from the Xiaofenghe section on the Yangtze Platform, South China. The Cd isotope data - reported as ε112/110Cd - show positive excursions in the cap dolomites, while significantly lighter Cd is found in the overlying strata. After correction for salinity-controlled fractionation into inorganic calcite, calculated palaeo-seawater ε112/110Cdsw range from -2 to +1.5, overlapping values of modern surface seawater. Importantly, ε112/110Cdsw and δ13C show a general positive correlation, as would be expected in bio-productive environments. However, the trend to lighter ε112/110Cd up-section is not that explicitly expected for an “explosion of life” at the end of the Ediacaran. The upper Doushantuo also displays substantial fluctuations in REE abundances, δ15N and δ13C, which may be due to estuarine mixing. Our data suggest that the variations in ε112/110Cd are a result of biologically-induced fractionation in at least some of the Ediacaran carbonates at Xiaofenghe. Further Cd isotope fractionation processes are clearly playing a role as well, such as precipitation of sulphides under anoxic pore-water conditions and fractionation into inorganic carbonates under variable salinity conditions. These effects have to be evaluated carefully when using Cd isotope systematics in ancient marine carbonates to look for palaeo-productivity signals.


Cap dolostones of the Ediacaran Doushantuo Formation (Yangtze Platform, South China) from various palaeo-water depths were studied to evaluate the extent of their diagenetic alteration and to assess temporal and spatial variations of seawater chemistry in the aftermath of the Marinoan glaciation. Diagenetic fluid overprint is common in cap dolostone lithologies. However, the mobilization of trace elements and the modification of Sr and O isotopic compositions are variable and were controlled by multiple stages of fluid overprint. The highest 87Sr/86Sr ratios (up to 0.7246) occur in cap dolostones from the palaeo-slope environment at the Huanglianba section, whereas cap dolostones deposited in platform settings and in one of the distal basinal settings reveal 87Sr/86Sr ratios close to the proposed late Neoproterozoic seawater composition (0.7077). Shale-normalized REE + Y patterns of carbonate leachates display enrichments of heavy over light REE and superchondritic Y/Ho ratios, typical of seawater. However, Y/Ho ratios in the cap dolostones are always lower than modern seawater values, which is interpreted to reflect dilution of the seawater signal by continent-derived meltwater influx during deglaciation. Negative Ce anomalies in carbonate leachates from platform and slope sections suggest that oxidized conditions existed in shallow marine environments shortly after the Marinoan glaciation, whereas positive or no resolvable Ce anomalies in basin settings indicate that the latter remained anoxic. Redox stratification of the Yangtze margin at the beginning of the Ediacaran is further supported by the relative enrichment of redox-sensitive trace metals in basinal sections. These data may indicate moderately anoxic (less than 10µM dissolved O2) and presumably manganous conditions during the deposition of cap dolostones in the deeper realms of the Yangtze basin.