The isotopic composition of strontium in non-marine carbonate rocks: the Flagstaff Formation of Utah*


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    Laboratory for Isotope Geology and Geochemistry Contribution No. 39.


The isotopic composition of strontium in surface water in continental basins is determined primarily by the geology of the basin and to a lesser extent by climatic conditions. Consequently, the 87Sr/86Sr ratios of brines in such basins can change only as a result of changes in the geology or climate. This principle of isotope geology was studied by analysis of a suite of non-marine carbonate rocks from the Flagstaff Formation (Palaeocene-Eocene) of Utah. The samples were collected from a section in Fairview Canyon of Sanpete County. They include both limestone and dolomite and were selected to have low non-carbonate residues. The concentrations of strontium in calcites averages 383 ± 128 p.p.m., while those of dolomites increase from 354 ± 74 p.p.m. in the lower 43 m of section to a maximum of 2259 p.p.m. higher up. The increase in the strontium content of dolomite is interpreted as evidence for a change from steady-state to progressively more evaporitic conditions. Two dolomites have isotopic compositions of oxygen expressed as δ18O = -2.75‰ (relative to the PDB standard) and are enriched in 18O relative to two calcites whose average δ18O value is -9.9‰. The 87Sr/86Sr ratios of the carbonate minerals range from 0.70890 to 0.71260. These values are clearly greater than the 87Sr/86Sr ratio of marine carbonates of Early Eocene age which is 0.70744. The variation of the 87Sr/86Sr ratio in this section of the Flagstaff Formation is real and reflects the occurrence of geological events which changed the isotopic composition of Sr entering Lake Flagstaff. The non-carbonate fractions of six carbonate rocks and one sandstone fit a straight line on the strontium mixing diagram in co-ordinates of initial 87Sr/86Sr and 1/Sr concentration. These results suggest that the isotopic composition of strontium in Lake Flagstaff may have been modulated by periodic input of volcanogenic detritus of felsic composition.