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Discriminating stromatolite formation modes using rare earth element geochemistry: Trapping and binding versus in situ precipitation of stromatolites from the Neoproterozoic Bitter Springs Formation, Northern Territory, Australia

Corkeron, Maree L., Webb, Gregory E., Moulds, Joshua, & Grey, Kathleen (2012) Discriminating stromatolite formation modes using rare earth element geochemistry: Trapping and binding versus in situ precipitation of stromatolites from the Neoproterozoic Bitter Springs Formation, Northern Territory, Australia. Precambrian Research, 212-213, pp. 194-206.

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Abstract

Stromatolites consist primarily of trapped and bound ambient sediment and/or authigenic mineral precipitates, but discrimination of the two constituents is difficult where stromatolites have a fine texture. We used laser ablation-inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry to measure trace element (rare earth element – REE, Y and Th) concentrations in both stromatolites (domical and branched) and closely associated particulate carbonate sediment in interspaces (spaces between columns or branches) from bioherms within the Neoproterozoic Bitter Springs Formation, central Australia. Our high resolution sampling allows discrimination of shale-normalised REE patterns between carbonate in stromatolites and immediately adjacent, fine-grained ambient particulate carbonate sediment from interspaces. Whereas all samples show similar negative La and Ce anomalies, positive Gd anomalies and chondritic Y/Ho ratios, the stromatolites and non-stromatolite sediment are distinguishable on the basis of consistently elevated light REEs (LREEs) in the stromatolitic laminae and relatively depleted LREEs in the particulate sediment samples. Additionally, concentrations of the lithophile element Th are higher in ambient sediment samples than in stromatolites, consistent with accumulation of some fine siliciclastic detrital material in the ambient sediment but a near absence in the stromatolites. These findings are consistent with the stromatolites consisting dominantly of in situ carbonate precipitates rather than trapped and bound ambient sediment. Hence, high resolution trace element (REE + Y, Th) geochemistry can discriminate fine-grained carbonates in these stromatolites from coeval non-stromatolitic carbonate sediment and demonstrates that the sampled stromatolites formed primarily from in situ precipitation, presumably within microbial mats/biofilms, rather than by trapping and binding of ambient sediment. Identification of the source of fine carbonate in stromatolites is significant, because if it is not too heavily contaminated by trapped ambient sediment, it may contain geochemical biosignatures and/or direct evidence of the local water chemistry in which the precipitates formed.

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2 citations in Web of Science®

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ID Code: 52949
Item Type: Journal Article
Keywords: Stromatolite, Geochemistry, Rare Earth Elements, Growth Mechanisms, Neoproterozoic, Bitter Springs
DOI: 10.1016/j.precamres.2012.04.019
ISSN: 0301-9268
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > EARTH SCIENCES (040000)
Divisions: Current > Schools > School of Earth, Environmental & Biological Sciences
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Science & Engineering Faculty
Deposited On: 07 Aug 2012 08:58
Last Modified: 26 Jun 2014 13:45

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