Groundwater dolocretes from the Upper Triassic of the Paris Basin, France: a case study of an arid, continental diagenetic facies


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    US Geological Survey, Office of Energy and Marine Geology, National Center, M.S. 915, 12201 Sunrise Valley Drive, Reston, VA 22092, USA.


Thick dolomite-cemented horizons (dolocretes) occur within a fluvial sandstone-mudstone sequence of Late Triassic age in the western part of the Paris Basin, France. Two types of dolomites can be distinguished: (a) nodular dolomitic beds less than a few metres thick, which formed within mottled overbank siltstones and mudstones; and (b) massive dolomite up to 16 m thick, which occurs in coarse grained channel sandstones and conglomerates.

The majority of the dolomite consists of a finely crystalline groundmass of dolomicrospar and, less commonly, dolomicrite. Glaebules, irregular spar-filled cracks, spheroidal dolomite, silicification and vuggy porosity are locally abundant in the massive dolomite. In contrast, biologically induced micromorphological features such as rhizocretions and alveolar-septal fabrics were observed in the thin, nodular dolomite beds.

The dolomite is near stoichiometric, well ordered and non-ferroan. 18O values range from −7·7 to −0·4%o PDB and 18O values range from −5·1 to + 1·8%0 PDB and no obvious difference in the stable isotopic composition between both types of dolomites was observed. Sr isotope ratios range from 0·7101 to 0·7126 and are invariably higher than the contemporary Triassic sea water.

A vadose—pedogenic origin for the thin dolocrete layers is indicated by the occurrence of rhizocretions and other biological structures. Several features, however, argue against a pedogenic origin for the massive carbonates, most notably the absence of biologically induced structures, the occurrence in coarse grained channel (and not overbank) deposits, and the great thickness. These units are thus interpreted as groundwater in origin. Phreatic calcretes of Quaternary age, widespread in inland Australia, are regarded as a modern analogue for the Triassic Paris Basin dolocretes.

Petrographic observations argue in favour of primary (proto)dolomite precipitation, although early diagenetic replacement of calcite by (proto)dolomite cannot be ruled out. Strontium and carbon isotope data of early diagenetic dolocrete cements and oxygen isotope data of early diagenetic silica indicate an entirely non-marine, continental origin for the groundwaters. The poorly ordered and non-stoichiometric protodolomite probably underwent stabilization upon further burial resulting in a near-stoichiometric, well ordered dolomite that clearly lacks evidence for pervasive recrystallization.