Short-term endproducts of sulfate reduction in a salt marsh: Formation of acid volatile sulfides, elemental sulfur, and pyrite

Gary M. King, University of Maine
B. L. Howes, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
J. W.H. Dacey, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution


Rates of sulfate reduction, oxygen uptake and carbon dioxide production in sediments from a short Spartina alterniflora zone of Great Sippewissett Marsh were measured simultaneously during late summer. Surface sediments (0-2 cm) were dominated by aerobic metabolism which accounted for about 45% of the total carbon dioxide production over 0-15 cm. Rates of sulfate reduction agreed well with rates of total carbon dioxide production below 2 cm depth indicating that sulfate reduction was the primary pathway for sub-surface carbon metabolism. Sulfate reduction rates were determined using a radiotracer technique coupled with a chromous chloride digestion and carbon disulfide extraction of the sediment to determine the extent of formation of radiolabelled elemental sulfur and pyrite during shortterm (48 hr) incubations. In the surface 10 cm of the marsh sediments investigated, about 50% of the reduced radiosulfur was recovered as dissolved or acid volatile sulfides, 37% as carbon disulfide extractable sulfur, and only about 13% was recovered in a fraction operationally defined as pyrite. Correlations between the extent of sulfate depletion in the marsh sediments and the concentrations of dissolved and acid volatile sulfides supported the results of the radiotracer work. Our data suggest that sulfides and elemental sulfur may be major short-term end-products of sulfate reduction in salt marshes. © 1985.