Three peritidal carbonate crusts and associated intercrust sediments (total thickness of ∼30cm; aged <3000 years BP) on Ambergris Cay, Belize, contain 32–100% calcian dolomite (δx=72·5% dolomite) ranging in composition from 40 to 46 mol% MgCO3 (δx=43·3). Dolomite replaced high Mg calcite foraminiferal muds penecontemporaneously with sedimentation, forming partially dolomitized sediments and lithified crusts. Dolomitization probably occurred in normal to moderately evaporated seawater and is apparently continuing at the present.
Detailed scanning electron microscope analysis shows a linear increase in mean dolomite crystal size with depth; 0·4 μm near the top of the section to 1·0 μm near the base of the dolomitized section. This size increase is not accompanied by any significant decrease in porosity. Crystal size distributions appear to be log-normal and become increasingly broad and flat with depth. Rietveld X-ray pattern-fitting structure refinements indicate increasing Ca and Mg concentrations on their respective sites (cation ordering) as a function of increasing depth. Most of the ordering occurs within the first 15 cm of the surface. Stoichiometry does not increase with depth indicating no relationship between the Ca/Mg ratio and cation ordering. Strong geochemical trends were observed down-section in the dolomite, including: (1) increasing Mn content (44 to 274 ppm), and (2) decreasing δ13C values (−0·9 to −5·5‰ PDB). Oxygen isotope values range from δ18O = 1·3‰ PDB in the upper part of the section to 2·6‰ PDB in the lower part of the section and are interpreted to represent two distinct groups of values rather than a continuous trend.
Down-section dolomite crystal size increase and shapes of crystal size distributions are consistent with recrystallization via a surface energy-driven dissolution-reprecipitation process (Ostwald ripening). The observed trends in carbon isotopes and Mn content probably result from geochemical re-equilibration during recrystallization and reflect reducing conditions and an isotopically light, organically derived, carbon source. Oxygen isotope compositions probably reflect relict original dolomite values and are a result of decreasing evaporation due to rising sea level.