Tropospheric carbonyl sulfide mass balance based on direct measurements of sulfur isotopes

Chen Davidson, Alon Amrani, Alon Angert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Robust estimates for the rates and trends in terrestrial gross primary production (GPP; plant CO 2 uptake) are needed. Carbonyl sulfide (COS) is the major long-lived sulfur-bearing gas in the atmosphere and a promising proxy for GPP. Large uncertainties in estimating the relative magnitude of the COS sources and sinks limit this approach. Sulfur isotope measurements ( 34S/ 32S; δ 34S) have been suggested as a useful tool to constrain COS sources. Yet such measurements are currently scarce for the atmosphere and absent for the marine source and the plant sink, which are two main fluxes. Here we present sulfur isotopes measurements of marine and atmospheric COS, and of plant-uptake fractionation experiments. These measurements resulted in a complete data-based tropospheric COS isotopic mass balance, which allows improved partition of the sources. We found an isotopic (δ 34S ± SE) value of 13.9 ± 0.1‰ for the troposphere, with an isotopic seasonal cycle driven by plant uptake. This seasonality agrees with a fractionation of -1.9 ± 0.3‰ which we measured in plant-chamber experiments. Air samples with strong anthropogenic influence indicated an anthropogenic COS isotopic value of 8 ± 1‰. Samples of seawater-equilibrated-air indicate that the marine COS source has an isotopic value of 14.7 ± 1‰. Using our data-based mass balance, we constrained the relative contribution of the two main tropospheric COS sources resulting in 40 ± 17% for the anthropogenic source and 60 ± 20% for the oceanic source. This constraint is important for a better understanding of the global COS budget and its improved use for GPP determination.

Original languageAmerican English
Article numbere2020060118
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number6
StatePublished - 9 Feb 2021


  • Anthropogenic sulfur
  • Carbonyl sulfide
  • Gross primary production
  • Oceanic sulfur
  • Sulfur isotopes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General


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