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Keywords:

  • Bacterial iron reduction;
  • carbonate sediments;
  • dissolution;
  • sulphate reduction;
  • terrigenous sediment

Abstract

The early diagenetic chemical dissolution of skeletal carbonates has previously been documented as taking place within bioturbated, shallow water, tropical carbonate sediments. The diagenetic reactions operating within carbonate sediments that fall under the influence of iron-rich (terrigenous) sediment input are less clearly understood. Such inputs should modify carbonate diagenetic reactions both by minimizing bacterial sulphate reduction in favour of bacterial iron reduction, and by the reaction of any pore-water sulphide with iron oxides, thereby minimizing sulphide oxidation and associated acidity. To test this hypothesis sediment cores were taken from sites within Discovery Bay (north Jamaica), which exhibit varying levels of Fe-rich bauxite sediment contamination. At non-impacted sites sediments are dominated by CaCO3 (up to 99% by weight). Pore waters from the upper few centimetres of cores show evidence for active sulphate reduction (reduced SO4/Cl ratios) and minor CaCO3 dissolution (increased Ca2+/Cl ratios). Petrographic observations of carbonate grains (specifically Halimeda and Amphiroa) show clear morphological evidence for dissolution throughout the sediment column. In contrast, at bauxite-impacted sites, the sediment is composed of up to 15% non-carbonate and contains up to 6000 μg g−1 Fe. Pore waters show no evidence for sulphate reduction, but marked levels of Fe(II), suggesting that bacterial Fe(III) reduction is active. Carbonate grains show little evidence for dissolution, often exhibiting pristine surface morphologies. Samples from the deeper sections of these cores, which pre-date bauxite influence, commonly exhibit morphological evidence for dissolution implying that this was a significant process prior to bauxite input. Previous studies have suggested that dissolution, driven by sulphate reduction and sulphide oxidation, can account for the loss of as much as 50% of primary carbonate production in localized platform environments. The finding that chemical dissolution is minor in a terrigenous-impacted carbonate environment, therefore, has significant implications for carbonate budgets and cycling, and the preservation of carbonate grains in such sediment systems.