Modern and Holocene carbonate sedimentology of two saline volcanic maar lakes, southern Australia



The Basin Lakes are two adjacent maar lakes located in the centre of the Western Volcanic Plains District of Victoria, Australia. Both lakes are saline and alkaline; West Basin Lake is meromictic whereas East Basin is a warm monomictic lake. The carbonate mineral suite of the modern offshore bottom sediments of these Basins consists mainly of dolomite and calcite, with smaller amounts of hydromagnesite and magnesite in West Basin and monohydrocalcite in East Basin. The dolomite, hydromagnesite, magnesite, and monohydrocalcite are endogenic in origin, being derived by primary inorganic precipitation within the water columns of the lakes or at the sediment-water interface. The calcite is biologically precipitated as ostracod valves.

In addition to the carbonates in the modern offshore (deep-water) sediments, the lakes also contain a girdle of nearshore carbonate hardgrounds. Both beachrock and microbialites (algal boundstones) are present. These modern lithified carbonate units exhibit a wide range of depositional and diagenetic fabrics, morphologies and compositions. In West Basin, the hardgrounds are composed mainly of dolomite, hydromagnesite, and magnesite, whereas dolomite and monohydrocalcite dominate the East Basin sediments. Aragonite, high-Mg calcite, kutnahorite, siderite, and protohydromagnesite also occur in these lithified carbonate units.

Stratigraphic variations in the carbonate mineralogy of the Holocene sediment record in the lakes were used to help decipher the palaeochemistry and palaeohydrology of the Basins. These changes, in conjunction with fluctuations in organic remains and fossil content, indicate a pattern of lake level histories similar to that deciphered from other maar lakes in western Victoria.