The production and fate of volatile organosulfur compounds in sulfidic and ferruginous sediment

Jean V. Wilkening, Alexandra V. Turchyn, Kelly R. Redeker, Jennifer V. Mills, Gilad Antler, Ornella Carrión, Jonathan D. Todd

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Volatile organic sulfur compounds (VOSCs) link the atmospheric, marine, and terrestrial sulfur cycles in marine and marginal marine environments. Despite the important role VOSCs play in global biogeochemical sulfur cycling, less is known about how the local geochemical conditions influence production and consumption of VOSCs. We present a study of dimethyl sulfide (DMS), methanethiol (MeSH), and dimethylsulfoniopropionate (DMSP) in sulfide-rich (sulfidic) and iron-rich (ferruginous) salt marsh sediment from north Norfolk, UK. Initial results illustrate the importance of minimizing time between sampling in remote field locations and laboratory analysis, due to rapid degradation of VOSCs. With rapid analysis of sediment from different depths, we observe high concentrations of DMS, MeSH, and DMSP, with concentrations in surface sediment an order of magnitude higher than those in previous studies of surface water. We measure systematic differences in the concentration and depth distribution of MeSH and DMS between sediment environments; DMS concentrations are higher in ferruginous sediment, and MeSH concentrations are higher in sulfidic sediment. With repeated measurements over a short time period, we show that the degradation patterns for DMS and MeSH are different in the ferruginous versus sulfidic sediment. We discuss potential biogeochemical interactions that could be driving the observed differences in VOSC dynamics in ferruginous and sulfidic sediment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3390-3402
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences
Issue number11
Early online date16 Oct 2019
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2019


  • dimethyl sulfide
  • dimethylsulfoniopropionate
  • methanethiol
  • salt marsh
  • volatile organosulfur compounds

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