Petrographic and geochemical analysis of caliche profiles in a Bahamian Pleistocene dune



Two caliche profiles from a Pleistocene carbonate dune on San Salvador Island, Bahamas, were examined by petrographic and geochemical analysis. Profile A is an immature buried caliche profile characterized by caliche pisolites, a friable crust and abundant Cerion. Profile B is a more well-developed caliche profile at the top of the dune which contains abundant pisolites, rhizomorphs, laminated calcrete, a breccia and abundant Cerion.

Geochemical changes in caliche profiles relative to the host rock are an increase in Al2O3, Fe2O3 and total organic carbon, a decrease in Mg and Sr, and a decrease in δ13Ccarb, δ18Ocarb and δ13Corg. The magnitude of these changes is probably a function of the duration of subaerial exposure and resultant colonization by dune plants and associated microflora.

Abundance of calcified filaments and needle-fibre crystals in profile A attests to the importance of microbial processes in the early development of caliche profiles. Biogenic structures are largely destroyed in profile B due to recrystallization, but indirect evidence of biological activity is retained in the form of carbon isotope values.