Strontium isotopic variations of Neoproterozoic seawater: implications for crustal evolution

Geochim Cosmochim Acta. 1991;55:2883-94. doi: 10.1016/0016-7037(91)90453-c.


We report high precision Sr isotopic data on carbonates from the Neoproterozoic Shaler Group, Victoria Island, Northwest Territories, Canada. Lithostratigraphic correlations with the relatively well-dated Mackenzie Mountains Supergroup constrain Shaler deposition to approximately 770-880 Ma, a range corroborated by 723 +/- 3 Ma lavas that disconformably overlie Shaler carbonates and by Late Riphean microfossils within the section. Samples with low 87Rb/86Sr ratios (<0.01) were selected for Sr isotopic analysis. Delta 18O, Mn, Ca, Mg, and Sr data were used to recognize altered samples. The altered samples are characterized by high Mn/Sr (> or = 2) and variable delta 18O; most are dolomites. The data indicate that between ca. 790-850 Ma the 87Sr/86Sr ratio of seawater varied between 0.70676 and 0.70561. The samples show smooth and systematic variation, with the lowest 87Sr/86Sr value of 0.70561 at ca. 830 Ma. The low 87Sr/86Sr ratio of carbonates from the lower parts of our section is similar to a value reported for one sample from the Adrar of Mauritania (approximately 900 Ma), West African Craton. Isotopic ratios from the upper part of the Shaler section are identical to values from the lower part of the Neoproterozoic Akademikerbreen Group, Spitsbergen. Although a paucity of absolute age determinations hinders attempts at the precise correlation of Neoproterozoic successions, it is possible to draw a broad outline of the Sr isotopic composition of seawater for this period. Indeed, the Sr isotope data themselves provide a stratigraphic tool of considerable potential. Data from this study and the literature are used to construct a curve of the 87Sr/86Sr ratio of Neoproterozoic seawater. The new data reported in this study substantially improve the isotopic record of Sr in seawater for the period 790-850 Ma. The Sr isotope composition of seawater reflects primarily the balance between continental Sr input through river input and mantle input via hydrothermal circulation of seawater through mid-ocean ridges. Coupling of Nd and Sr isotopic systems allows us to model changes in seafloor spreading rates (or hydrothermal flux) and continental erosion. The Sr hydrothermal flux and the erosion rate (relative to present-day value) are modeled for the period 500-900 Ma. The results indicate that the hydrothermal flux reached a maximum value at ca. 830 Ma. In contrast, a large peak in erosion rate is indicated at ca. 570 Ma. The peaks in hydrothermal flux and erosion rate are most likely related to developments in the Pan-African and related orogenic events, whose initial development is characterized by production of juvenile crust during supercontinental break up and rifting. The time ca. 570 Ma is characterized by continent-continent collision and production of recycled crust. Sr isotope data from Proterozoic carbonates offer a valuable resource for understanding large-scale crust dynamics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Africa, Western
  • Calcium / analysis
  • Carbonates / analysis*
  • Earth, Planet
  • Geological Phenomena
  • Geology*
  • Magnesium / analysis
  • Manganese / analysis
  • Oceans and Seas
  • Oxygen Isotopes
  • Paleontology
  • Rubidium Radioisotopes / analysis
  • Seawater / chemistry*
  • Strontium / analysis
  • Strontium Isotopes
  • Svalbard
  • Time Factors
  • Victoria


  • Carbonates
  • Oxygen Isotopes
  • Rubidium Radioisotopes
  • Strontium Isotopes
  • Manganese
  • Magnesium
  • Calcium
  • Strontium