Brine evolution in two inland evaporative environments: influence of microbial mats in mineral precipitation



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Cabestrero, Óscar and Sanz Montero, M. Esther (2018) Brine evolution in two inland evaporative environments: influence of microbial mats in mineral precipitation. Journal of Paleolimnology, 59 (2). pp. 139-157. ISSN ISSN: 0921-2728, online ISSN: 1573-0417

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This paper gives new insight into the precipitation sequences in six playa basins that host microbial mats. The study basins are distributed across two evaporitic endorheic drainage systems located in the Central part of Spain with markedly different hydrochemistry and mineralogy. One group, in the north, consists of highly alkaline, brackish to saline lakes containing a high concentration of chloride with dominant carbonate over sulphates. A second group of lakes are mesosaline to hypersaline, with sulphate the dominant anion over chloride. Mineral assemblages identified in both contain several phases that provide evidence for mixed carbonate-sulphate precipitation pathways, in the north, and sulphate-dominated pathways in the south. Regardless of their ionic composition, saline lakes support thin veneers of microbial mats which, by integrating several lines of evidence (hydrochemical and physical analyses, statistical analyses of ions, mineralogical assemblages, textural relationships among mineral phases and microbial mats) are shown to modify the chemical behavior of the evaporitic sediment and promote the formation of carbonates and sulphates from Ca-poor waters with high Mg/Ca ratios. Geochemical changes induced in the environment surrounding the microorganism favor the nucleation of hydrated Mg-carbonates (hydromagnesite and nesquehonite), calcite and dolomite. Simultaneously, the microbial mats provide nucleation sites for gypsum crystals, where they are subjected to episodic stages of growth and dissolution due to saturation indices close to zero. In addition, the bubbles produced by the metabolic activities of microorganisms are shown to promote the precipitation of hydrated Mg-sulphates, despite permanent subsaturation levels. Although common in the studied playa basins, this effect has not been previously reported and is key to understanding sulphate behavior and distribution. Modern and natural evaporitic microbial environments are important analogs for understanding brine evolution and mineral precipitation pathways in shallow water settings that have existed since the Archean on Earth and perhaps on Mars.

Item Type:Article
Uncontrolled Keywords:Ephemeral lakes, Poor-calcium brines, Microbial mats, Lithification, Carbonate, Sulphates
Subjects:Sciences > Geology > Geochemistry
Sciences > Geology > Mineralogy
Sciences > Geology > Petrology
ID Code:47727
Deposited On:24 May 2018 16:39
Last Modified:07 Jun 2019 08:23

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