Sulfur is an essential element for all living organisms because it plays a critical role in energy transduction, enzymatic reactions, and biosynthesis (amino acids and proteins). Organic matter preserved in sediments thus retains the organic and inorganic history of sulfur initially incorporated into organic tissue (primary) or added during diagenesis (secondary). The organic sulfur (OS) formed by these processes is the second largest pool of reduced sulfur in sediments; in some systems, such as the Miocene Monterey Formation, as much as 80% of the total reduced sulfur is present in the form of organic sulfur. The record of varying organic carbon burial, with its implications for carbon and nutrient sequestration, surface redox balance, and oxidation of the atmosphere potentially depends in large part on details of marine sulfur chemistry.


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