Shallow subsurface diagenesis of Pleistocene periplatform ooze: northern Bahamas



Previous studies on early submarine diagenesis of periplatform carbonates have implied that these originally polymineralic (aragonite, magnesian calcite, calcite) sediments are susceptible to early diagenesis only in current-swept open seaways or where surficially exposed by erosion on the seafloor. It has also been proposed that while in the shallow subsurface, periplatform oozes retain their original mineralogy for at least 200,000–400,000 yr and remain unlithified for tens of millions of years.

Evidence is reported here for extensive calcitization and selective lithification of periplatform oozes of late Pleistocene age in two piston cores collected from water depths of ∼ 1,000 m north of Little Bahama Bank. It is shown that shallow (<30 m) subsurface diagenesis can significantly alter the original mineralogy of periplatform oozes to predominantly calcite in less than 440,000 yr, and that cementation by calcite can produce chalk-ooze sequences within the same time-frame. Periplatform oozes that originally contain a high percentage of bank-derived magnesian calcite appear to have a higher diagenetic potential than those originally low in magnesian calcite. Shallow subsurface calcitization and fithification greatly reduce the diagenetic potential of periplatform carbonates, and chalk-ooze sequences apparently can persist for tens of millions of years and to burial depths of at least 300 m.

Shallow subsurface diagenesis, at water depths > 1,000 m, proceeds via dissolution of magnesian calcite and aragonite and reprecipitation of calcite as allochem fillings, exterior overgrowths and cement. It is speculated that density-driven ‘Kohout convection‘, where seawaters under-saturated with respect to magnesian calcite and aragonite and saturated/supersaturated with respect to calcite flow through the margins of carbonate platforms, is the primary driving mechanism for shallow subsurface diagenesis. Removal of Mg during early stages of deep seafloor and shallow subsurface diagenesis should increase the Mg content of interstitial waters which is likely to increase the ‘dolomitizing potential’ of Kohout convection fluid flow.