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Keywords:

  • Biotic precipitate;
  • calcite dendrite;
  • Holocene;
  • hot spring;
  • stromatolite;
  • travertine;
  • tufa

Abstract

The relict Fairmont Hot Springs deposit, formed largely of carbonates, covers an area of 0·5 km2, and is up to 16 m thick. The triangle-shaped discharge apron, which broadens down-valley, is divided into a proximal part with beds dipping at <10° and a distal part with beds dipping at 10° to 15°. The deposit is formed of the: (1) Basal Macrophyte; (2) Lower Carbonate; (3) Middle Clastic; (4) Upper Carbonate; and (5) Upper Clastic Sequences. Two charcoal samples embedded in the Lower Carbonate Sequence yielded dates of 8690 ± 90 and 8270 ± 70 cal yr bp, indicating that much of the deposit formed post-glacially during the Early to Mid-Holocene. Deposit aggradation ceased in the Mid to Late Holocene when the Fairmont Creek valley was incised. The Lower and Upper Carbonate Sequences, which are the thickest sequences, are composed of nearly equal parts of travertine (abiotic) and tufa (biotic), with feather dendrite travertine, radiating dendrite travertine and stromatolite tufa dominating. Competition between calcite precipitation rates and biotic growth rates controlled the distribution of tufa and travertine across the discharge apron. Calcite and biotic growth rates were controlled largely by flow velocity across the apron which, in turn, was controlled by topography and regular fluctuations in spring water discharge volume. During times of high spring discharge, slow sheet flow over the proximal part of the apron promoted stromatolite growth, whereas fast, turbulent flow on the distal part of the apron induced rapid feather dendrite formation. During times of low spring discharge, quiescent, shallow evaporative pools, conducive to radiating dendrite formation, formed on the proximal part of the apron, whereas slow flow on the distal part promoted stromatolite growth. Facies with high calcite supersaturation experienced rapid abiotic dendrite growth that precluded most biotic growth.