Ureolytic bacteria have been proposed as model organisms to investigate the potential of subsurface microorganisms to enhance carbon capture and storage through solubility- and mineral-trapping of CO2 induced by bacterial ureolysis and carbonate formation. Ideally, CO2 incorporation into carbonates can be readily traced using carbon isotope measurements. However, the carbon isotope systematics of bacterial ureolysis and associated carbonate precipitation is still poorly known. We determined the carbon isotope fractionations expressed during ureolysis and carbonate precipitation induced by Sporosarcina pasteurii at 30 °C. Our results indicate that bacterial ureolysis proceeds as a Rayleigh distillation characterized by a 13C-enrichment factor equal to −12.5‰. As precipitation proceeds, the δ13C value of CaCO3, initially 1–2.1‰ lower than that of dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC), evolves progressively until it is 0.5‰ higher than that of the DIC, i.e. close to the value predicted for isotopic equilibrium. The minor isotope disequilibrium at the onset of precipitation and its rapid evolution towards isotopic equilibrium point to bacterial carbonates as reliable recorders of the carbon isotope composition of DIC. This corroborates the potential utility of 13C–tracing for the quantification of microbially-induced CO2 sequestration into solid carbonates and DIC.
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