Saline Lakes and their Deposits: A Sedimentological Approach

  1. Albert Matter and
  2. Maurice E. Tucker
  1. Lawrence A. Hardie,
  2. Joseph P. Smoot and
  3. Hans P. Eugster

Published Online: 29 JUN 2009

DOI: 10.1002/9781444303698.ch2

Modern and Ancient Lake Sediments

Modern and Ancient Lake Sediments

How to Cite

Hardie, L. A., Smoot, J. P. and Eugster, H. P. (1978) Saline Lakes and their Deposits: A Sedimentological Approach, in Modern and Ancient Lake Sediments (eds A. Matter and M. E. Tucker), Blackwell Publishing Ltd., Oxford, UK. doi: 10.1002/9781444303698.ch2

Author Information

  1. Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland, USA

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 29 JUN 2009
  2. Published Print: 24 NOV 1978

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9780632002344

Online ISBN: 9781444303698



  • saline lakes with deposits;
  • processes- hydrological, chemical, biological and sedimentological;
  • tectonic basins-block-fault and rift valleys;
  • wind deflation hollows;
  • interdunal depressions in a windblown dune field;
  • valleys dammed by lava flows or by landslides;
  • dry mudflat subenvironment


Saline lakes (lakes with >5000 ppm dissolved solutes) are common throughout the arid regions of the world. Their distribution is controlled by tectonic setting and climate, and thus their deposits take on an importance beyond their size and abundance in the geological column. To exploit this aspect of saline lakes an understanding is needed of their sedimentary record.

Saline lakes occupy the hydrographically lowest areas of closed drainage basins and are surrounded by a complex of interrelated depositional subenvironments that result mainly from the characteristics of the inflow. Our approach is to identify distinctive subenvironments, each subject to a distinctive set of hydrological, biological, chemical and sedimentological processes and hence each with a diagnostic set of sedimentary features in their deposits, as follows: (1) alluvial fan; coarse gravelly wedges composed of braid channel deposits, incised channel fills, sieve deposits and debris flows; (2) sandflat; flat unchannelled sandy apron at base of fan; planar and wavy laminated coarse sand (upper flow regime bedforms); (3) dry mudflats; exposed plain of mudcracked muddy sediment fringing the saline lake, covered with thin saline efflorescent crusts; sediment laminated but disrupted by mudcracks, sheetcracks, and saline mineral growth; (4) ephemeral saline lake consisting of an inner salt pan (thin beds of crystalline salts with mud partings) and an outer saline mudflat (massive mud crowded with salt crystals that have destroyed layering); (5) perennial saline lake; bottom sediment of laminated carbonates, gypsum, etc., or, if very saline, thin-bedded halite, etc.; (6) dune field (aeolian deposits); (7) perennial stream floodplain (braid or meander deposits); (8) ephemeral stream floodplain (braid deposits); (9) springs; travertine and tufa mounds and sheets; (10) shoreline features (deltas, beach ridges, spits, etc.).

By recognizing from the sedimentary record which subenvironments were present and how they were arranged in space and time, we can interpret the history of a saline lake basin, either modern or ancient.