Aquatic Geochemistry

, Volume 18, Issue 2, pp 95–113 | Cite as

Calcium Carbonate Nucleation in an Alkaline Lake Surface Water, Pyramid Lake, Nevada, USA

  • Michael M. Reddy
  • Anthony Hoch
Original Paper


Calcium concentration and calcite supersaturation (Ω) needed for calcium carbonate nucleation and crystal growth in Pyramid Lake (PL) surface water were determined during August of 1997, 2000, and 2001. PL surface water has Ω values of 10–16. Notwithstanding high Ω, calcium carbonate growth did not occur on aragonite single crystals suspended PL surface water for several months. However, calcium solution addition to PL surface-water samples caused reproducible calcium carbonate mineral nucleation and crystal growth. Mean PL surface-water calcium concentration at nucleation was 2.33 mM (n = 10), a value about nine times higher than the ambient PL surface-water calcium concentration (0.26 mM); mean Ω at nucleation (109 with a standard deviation of 8) is about eight times the PL surface-water Ω. Calcium concentration and Ω regulated the calcium carbonate formation in PL nucleation experiments and surface water. Unfiltered samples nucleated at lower Ω than filtered samples. Calcium concentration and Ω at nucleation for experiments in the presence of added particles were within one standard deviation of the mean for all samples. Calcium carbonate formation rates followed a simple rate expression of the form, rate (mM/min) = A (Ω) + B. The best fit rate equation “Rate (Δ mM/Δ min) = −0.0026 Ω + 0.0175 (r = 0.904, n = 10)” was statistically significant at greater than the 0.01 confidence level and gives, after rearrangement, Ω at zero rate of 6.7. Nucleation in PL surface water and morphology of calcium carbonate particles formed in PL nucleation experiments and in PL surface-water samples suggest crystal growth inhibition by multiple substances present in PL surface water mediates PL calcium carbonate formation, but there is insufficient information to determine the chemical nature of all inhibitors.


Pyramid Lake, Nevada, USA Calcium carbonate Nucleation Calcium carbonate nucleation Supersaturation Mineral formation inhibition 



The authors acknowledge help and encouragement of the PL Paiute Tribal Council and the PL Natural Resource Building staff during this work. Fieldwork was done with the assistance of David Fellenz (a USGS Volunteer, Lawrence University, Appleton, WI), Micaela Reddy (USGS Volunteer, Denver, CO), Julie Reddy (USGS Volunteer, Denver, CO), and Paul Schuster (USGS, NRP, CB, Boulder, CO). George Molino of Cutthroat Charters, Reno, NV, and Dan Mosley of the Pyramid Lake Piaute Tribe Environmental Department, Nixon, NV facilitated lake-water sampling logistics. Scott Charlton (USGS, NRP, BRR, CB, Denver, CO) assisted in data analysis and chemical speciation calculation. Charmaine Gunther (USGS, NRP, CB, Denver, CO) assisted in the preparation of the report. Review comments by David Parkhurst (USGS, NRP, CB, Denver, CO) and David Naftz (USGS, WRD, Salt Lake City, UT) and an anonymous reviewer significantly improved the manuscript. Anthony Hoch held a National Research Council-USGS Research Fellowship during this research. Funding for the work is by the USGS, NRP. The use of trade names and product names in this paper is for identification purposes only, and does not constitute endorsement by the USGS.


  1. Addadi L, Raz S, Weiner S (2003) Taking advantage of disorder: amorphous calcium carbonate and its roles in biomineralization. Adv Mater 15:959–970CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Arp G, Thiel V, Reimer A, Michaelis W, Reitner J (1999) Biofilm exopolymers control microbialite formation at thermal springs discharging into the alkaline Pyramid Lake, Nevada, USA. Sediment Geol 126:159–176CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bischoff JL, Stine S, Rosenbauer RJ, Fitzpatrick JA, Stafford TW Jr (1993) Ikaite precipitation by mixing of shoreline springs and lake water, Mono Lake, California, USA. Geochim Cosmochim Acta 57:3855–3865CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Chave K, Seuss E (1970) Calcium carbonate supersaturation in seawater: effects of dissolved organic matter. Limnol Oceanogr 15:633–637CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Cloud PE Jr (1962) Environment of calcium carbonate deposition west of Andros Island, Bahamas. U.S. Geol. Surv Professional Paper 350, p 138Google Scholar
  6. De Yoreo JJ, Dove PM (2004) Shaping crystals with biomolecules. Science 306:1301–1302CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Dean WE, Fouch TD (1983) Lacustrine environment. In: Scholle PA, Bebout DG, Moore CH (eds) Carbonate depositional environments, AAPG Memoir 33. The American Association of Petroleum Geologists, Tulsa, pp 98–130Google Scholar
  8. Didymus JM, Oliver P, Mann S, DeVries AL, Hauschka PV, Westbroek P (1993) Influence of low-molecular-weight and macromolecular organic additives on the morphology of calcium carbonate. J Chem Soc Faraday Trans 89:2891–2900CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Diehl H (1964) Calcein, calmagite, and o, o′-dihydroxyazobenzene. Titrimetric, colorimetric, and fluorometric reagents for calcium and magnesium. The G. Frederick Smith Chemical Company, ColumbusGoogle Scholar
  10. Dittrich M, Obst M (2004) Are picoplankton responsible for calcite precipitation in lakes? Ambio 33:553–558Google Scholar
  11. Galat DL, Jacobsen RL (1985) Recurrent aragonite precipitation in saline-alkaline Pyramid Lake, Nevada. Arch Hydrobiol 105:137–159Google Scholar
  12. Hamilton-Galat K, Galat DL (1983) Seasonal variation of nutrients, organic carbon, ATP, and microbial standing crops in a vertical profile of Pyramid Lake, Nevada. Hydrobiologia 105:27–43CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. He S, Kan AT, Tomson MB (1999) Inhibition of calcium carbonate precipitation in NaCl brines from 25 to 90°C. Appl Geochem 14:17–25CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Herman JS (1989) A geochemical model of calcite precipitation and CO2 outgassing in karst streams. In: Miles DL (ed) Water-Rock Interaction, WRI-6. Balkema, Rotterdam, pp 301–304Google Scholar
  15. Herman JS, Lorah MM (1988) Calcite precipitation rates in the field: measurement and prediction for a travertine-depositing stream. Geochim Cosmochim Acta 52:2347–2355CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Higgins JA, Fischer WW, Schrag DP (2009) Oxygenation of the ocean and sediments: consequences for the seafloor carbonate factory. Earth Planet Sci Lett 284:25–33CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Hodell DA, Schelske CL, Fahnenstiel GL, Robbins LL (1998) Biological induced calcite and its isotopic composition in Lake Ontario. Limnol Oceanogr 43:187–199CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Kelts K, Hsü KJ (1978) Freshwater carbonate sedimentation. In: Lerman A (ed) Lakes: chemistry, geology, physics, chapter 9. Springer, New York, pp 294–323Google Scholar
  19. Kile DE, Eberl DD, Hoch AR, Reddy MM (2000) An assessment of calcite crystal growth mechanisms based on crystal size distributions. Geochem Cosmochim Acta 64:2937–2950CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Lebo ME, Reuter JE, Rhodes CL, Goldman CR (1993) Pyramid Lake, Nevada water quality study 1989-1993. Volume II. Limnological Description. University of California, DavisGoogle Scholar
  21. Leenheer JA, Reddy MM (2008) Co-precipitation of dissolved organic matter by calcium carbonate in Pyramid Lake, Nevada. Ann Environ Sci 2:11–25Google Scholar
  22. McConnaughey TA, LaBaugh JW, Rosenberry DO, Striegl RG, Reddy MM, Schuster PF, Carter V (1994) Carbon budget for a groundwater-fed lake: calcification supports summer photosynthesis. Limnol Oceanogr 39:1319–1332CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. McKenzie JA (1982) Carbon-13 cycle in Lake Greifen: a model for restricted ocean basins. In: Schlanger SO, Cita MB (eds) Nature and origin of cretaceous carbon-rich facies. Academic Press, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, London, pp 197–207Google Scholar
  24. Nancollas GH, Reddy MM (1971) The crystallization of calcium carbonate II. Calcite growth mechanism. J Colloid Interf Sci 37:824–830CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Nancollas GH, Reddy MM (1974) The kinetics of crystallization of scale-forming minerals. Soc Petrol Eng J 14:117–126Google Scholar
  26. Otsuki A, Wetzel RG (1974) Calcium and total alkalinity budgets and calcium carbonate precipitation of a small hard-water lake. Arch Hydrobiol (74):14–30Google Scholar
  27. Parkhurst DL, Appelo CAJ (1999) User’s guide to PHREEQC (version 2)—a computer program for speciation, batch-reaction, one-dimensional transport, and inverse geochemical calculations. U.S. Geological Survey, Water-Resources Investigations Report 99-4259, 312 pGoogle Scholar
  28. Plummer LN, Busenberg E, Riggs AC (2000) In situ growth of calcite at Devils Hole, Nevada: comparison of field and laboratory rates to a 500,000 year record of near-equilibrium calcite growth. Aquat Geochem 6:257–274CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Reddy MM (1975) Kinetics of calcium carbonate formation. Proc Int Assoc Theor Appl Limnol 19:429–438Google Scholar
  30. Reddy MM (1977) Crystallization of calcium carbonate in the presence of trace concentrations of phosphorus-containing anions I. Inhibition by phosphate and glycerophosphate ions at pH 8.8 and 25°C. J Cryst Growth 41:287–295CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Reddy MM (1978) Kinetic inhibition of calcium carbonate formation by wastewater constituents. In: Rubin AJ (ed) The chemistry of waste-water technology (Chapter 3). Ann Arbor Science Publishers, Inc., Ann Arbor, pp 31–58Google Scholar
  32. Reddy MM (1986) Effect of magnesium ion on calcium carbonate nucleation and crystal growth in dilute aqueous solutions at 25°C. In: Mumpton FA (ed) Studies in digenesis. U.S. Geological Survey Bulletin 1578, Denver, pp 169–182Google Scholar
  33. Reddy MM (1995) Carbonate precipitation in Pyramid Lake, Nevada. In: Amjad Z (ed) Mineral scale formation and inhibition. Plenum Press, New York, pp 21–32Google Scholar
  34. Reddy MM, Hoch AR (2000) Calcite crystal growth rate inhibition by aquatic humic substances. In: Amjad Z (ed) Advances in crystal growth inhibition technologies. Kluwer, New York, pp 107–121Google Scholar
  35. Reddy MM, Hoch AR (2001) Calcite crystal growth rate inhibition by polycarboxylic acids. J Colloid Interf Sci 235:365–370CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Reddy MM, Leenheer J (2011) Calcite growth rate inhibition by fulvic acids isolated from Big Soda Lake, Nevada, USA, the Suwannee River, Georgia, USA, and by Polycarboxylic Acids. Ann Environ Sci 5:41–53Google Scholar
  37. Reddy MM, Nancollas GH (1973) Calcite crystal growth inhibition by phosphonates. Desalination 12:61–73CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Reddy MM, Nancollas GH (1976) The crystallization of calcium carbonate IV. The effect of magnesium, strontium, and sulfate ions. J Cryst Growth 35:33–38CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Reddy MM, Wang KK (1980) Crystallization of calcium carbonate in the presence of metal ions. I. Inhibition by magnesium ion at pH 8.8 and 25°C. J Cryst Growth 50:470–480CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Reddy MM, Schuster PF, Harte JJ (1989) Summary of data from onsite and laboratory analyses of precipitation runoff from carbonate-stone surfaces. National Acid Precipitation Assessment Program, June 1984 to November 1987, U.S. Geological Survey Open File Report, 89-246, 19 pGoogle Scholar
  41. Reynolds RC Jr (1978) Polyphenol inhibition of calcite precipitation in Lake Powell. Limnol Oceanogr 23:585–597CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Rosen MR, Arehart GB, Lico MS (2004) Exceptionally fast growth rate of <100-yr-old tufa, Big Soda Lake, Nevada: Implications for using tufa as a paleoclimate proxy. Geology 32:409–412CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Runnells DD (1969) Diagenesis, chemical sediments, and the mixing of natural water. J Sediment Petrol 39:1188–1201Google Scholar
  44. Sarmiento JL, Gruber N (2006) Ocean biogeochemical dynamics. Princeton University Press, Princeton, p 503Google Scholar
  45. Schuster PF, Reddy MM, LaBaugh JW, Parkhurst RS, Rosenberry DO, Winter TC, Antweiler RC, Dean WE (2003) Characterization of lake water and ground water movement in the littoral zone of Williams Lake, a closed-basin lake in north-central Minnesota. Hydrol Process 17:823–838CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Tenzer GE, Meyers PA, Knoop P (1997) Sources and distribution of organic and carbonate carbon in surface sediments of Pyramid Lake, Nevada. J Sediment Res 67:884–890Google Scholar
  47. Wetzel RG, White WS (1985) Alteration of iron-CaCO3 precipitation by yellow organic acids of aquatic angiosperm origin. Arch Hydrobiol 104:247–251Google Scholar
  48. Weyl PK (1961) The carbonate saturometer. J Geol 69:32–44CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© U.S. Government 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.US Geological Survey (USGS), National Research Program (NRP), Central Branch (CB)Denver Federal CenterLakewoodUSA
  2. 2.Laramie Rivers Conservation DistrictLaramieUSA

Personalised recommendations