, Volume 4, Issue 3-4, pp 429-454

The Cold Carbonate Connection Between Mono Lake, Californiaand the Bransfield Strait, Antarctica

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Abstract

Ikaite is a rare form of carbonate – calciumcarbonate hexahydrate (CaCO3·6H2O) and isthe precursor to thinolites. Metastable 'ikaite'crystals, discovered in unconsolidated marinesediments in the King George Basin in the BransfieldStrait, Antarctica, are related to diageneticremineralization reactions of organic matter. StableC, O, and H-isotopes track the response of ikaitecrystals, during growth, to changing interstitialfluid conditions as a result of bacterial sulphatereduction and methanogenesis. Ikaites form inpreference over calcite or aragonite at the prevailingsurface sediment conditions of -1.6 °C and 200bar in the King George Basin.

The calcareous tufa towers of the terrestrial,hypersaline Mono Lake of northern California areCaCO3-precipitates formed by the influx ofsubmerged springs of calcium-rich freshwaters enteringthe alkaline lake (ΣCO2 = 0.5 m, pH =9.8). Under current climatic conditions the mineralcalcite precipitates, but during the colder Tiogaglacial period of Late Wisconsian age (12,000 to 9,000years BP), and possibly present day during the winterseason, the monoclinic calcium carbonate hexahydrate(ikaite) was the dominant phase formed. Thesepaleo-ikaites have since recrystallized to form thecalcitic pseudomorph 'thinolites'. They are foundelsewhere in recent and ancient sediments of polarregions, e.g., as 'glendonites'. The environmentaloccurrence of ikaites and their pseudomorphs deem themas potential paleoclimatic indicators of coldenvironments. The larger crystals are typicallyrestricted to colder, deeper organic-rich sediments orin moderately evaporitic basins. In these cases, theikaite formation and decomposition may be influencedby additives such as phosphate or amino acids.