Late Pleistocene mixing zone dolomitization, southeastern Barbados, West Indies




Field, geochemical, and petrographic data for late Pleistocene dolomites from southeastern Barbados suggest that the dolomite precipitated in the zone of mixing between a coastal meteoric phreatic lens and normal marine waters. The dolomite is localized in packstones and wackestones from the algalAmphistegina fore-reef calcarenite facies.

Stable isotopic evidence suggests that meteoric water dominated the diagenetic fluids responsible for dolomitization. Carbon isotopes in pure dolomite phases average about -15%0 PDB. This light carbon is attributed to the influence of soil gas CO2, and precludes substantial mixing with seawater. A narrow range of oxygen isotopic compositions coupled with a wide range of carbon compositions attest to the meteoric diagenetic overprint. Dolomitization likely occurred with as little as a five per cent admixture of seawater.

Strontium compositions of the dolomites indicate probable replacement dolomitization of original unstable mineralogy. The dolomite is characterized by low sodium values. Low concentrations of divalent manganese and iron suggest oxidizing conditions at the time of dolomitization.

A sequence of petrographic features suggests a progression of diagenetic fluids from more marine to more meteoric. Early marine diagenesis was followed by replacement dolomitization of skeletal grains and matrix. Limpid, euhedral dolomite cements precipitated in primary intra- and interparticle porosity subsequent to replacement dolomitization. As waters became progressively less saline, dolomite cements alternated with thin bands of syntaxial calcite cement. The final diagenetic phase precipitated was a blocky calcite spar cement, representing diagenesis in a fresh-water lens. This sequence of diagenetic features arose as the result of a single fall in eustatic sea-level following deposition.

A stratigraphic-eustatic-diagenetic model constrains both the timing and rate of dolomitization in southeastern Barbados. Dolomitization initiated as sea-level began to fall immediately following the oxygen isotope stage 7–3 high stand, some 216 000 yr bp. Due to the rapidity of late Pleistocene glacio-eustasy, dolomitization (locally complete) is constrained to have occurred within about 5000 yr.