Just out | Proterozoic microbial mats and their constraints on environments of silicification @ Geobiology

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Proterozoic microbial mats and their constraints on environments of silicification


R. Manning-Berg, L. C. Kah


The occurrence of microfossiliferous, early diagenetic chert in Proterozoic successions is broadly restricted to peritidal marine environments. Such coastal environments are amongst the most environmentally variable of marine environments, experiencing both enhanced evaporation and potential influx of terrestrial freshwaters. To better understand potential conditions under which silicification occurs, we focus on microfossiliferous early diagenetic chert from the Mesoproterozoic Bylot Supergroup, northern Baffin Island. Spectacular preservation of silicified microbial mats, their associated mineral phases, and the petrographic fabrics of the chert itself require that silicification occurred at the sediment–water interface, penecontemporaneously with mat growth. In some cases, silica is the primary precipitated mineral phase and is not associated with replacement of precursor mineral phases. In other cases, silica deposition includes the mimetic replacement of carbonate, gypsum, and halite mineral phases. These petrographic constraints suggest that silicification potentially occurred under a range of fluid chemistries associated with environmental variability in nearshore peritidal environments. Here we provide the first direct thermodynamic modeling of hypothetical Proterozoic seawater solutions, seawater-derived brines, and mixed seawater-freshwater solutions, and demonstrate that peritidal environments are capable of providing a wide range of fluid chemistries under which early diagenetic silica can both precipitate and replace primary mineralogical phases. Despite the thermodynamic potential for silica deposition under a wide range of fluid compositions, chert is not ubiquitous in Proterozoic nearshore environments, suggesting that the kinetics of silica polymerization exert a primary control over deposition.

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