Blackwell Publishing Journal Backfiles 1879-2005
Upper Pliocene dolomites (‘white earth’) from La Roda, Spain, offer a good opportunity to evaluate the process of dolomite formation in lakes. The relatively young nature of the deposits could allow a link between dolomites precipitated in modern lake systems and those present in older lacustrine formations. The La Roda Mg-carbonates (dolomite unit) occur as a 3·5- to 4-m-thick package of poorly indurated, white, massive dolomite beds with interbedded thin deposits of porous carbonate displaying root and desiccation traces as well as local lenticular gypsum moulds. The massive dolomite beds consist mainly of loosely packed 1- to 2-μm-sized aggregates of dolomite crystals exhibiting poorly developed faces, which usually results in a subrounded morphology of the crystals. Minute rhombs of dolomite are sparse within the aggregates. Both knobbly textures and clumps of spherical bodies covering the crystal surfaces indicate that bacteria were involved in the formation of the dolomites. In addition, aggregates of euhedral dolomite crystals are usually present in some more clayey (sepiolite) interbeds. The thin porous carbonate (mostly dolomite) beds exhibit both euhedral and subrounded, bacterially induced dolomite crystals. The carbonate is mainly Ca-dolomite (51–54 mol% CaCO3), showing a low degree of ordering (degree of ordering ranges from 0·27 to 0·48). Calcite is present as a subordinate mineral in some samples. Sr, Mn and Fe contents show very low correlation coefficients with Mg/Ca ratios, whereas SiO2 and K contents are highly correlated. δ18O- and δ13C-values in dolomites range from −3·07‰ to 5·40‰ PDB (mean=0·06, σ=1·75) and from −6·34‰ to −0·39‰ PDB (mean=−3·55, σ=1·33) respectively. Samples containing significant amounts of both dolomite and calcite do not in general show significant enrichment or depletion in 18O and 13C between the two minerals. The correlation coefficient between δ18O and δ13C for dolomite is extremely low and negative (r=−0·05), whereas it is higher and positive (r=0·47) for calcite. The lacustrine dolomite deposit from La Roda is interpreted mainly as a result of primary precipitation of dolomite in a shallow, hydrologically closed perennial lake. The lake was supplied by highly saturated HCO3−/CO32− groundwater that leached dolomitic Mesozoic formations. Precipitation of dolomite from alkaline lake waters took place under a semi-arid to arid climate. However, according to our isotopic data, strong evaporative conditions were not required for the formation of the La Roda dolomite. A significant contribution by bacteria to the formation of the dolomites is assumed in view of both petrographic and geochemical evidence.
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