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Dolomitization by hypersaline reflux into dense groundwaters as revealed by vertical trends in strontium and oxygen isotopes: Upper Muschelkalk, Switzerland

Type of publication Peer-reviewed
Publikationsform Original article (peer-reviewed)
Author Adams Arthur, Diamond Larryn W., Aschwanden Lukas,
Project Exploration and characterization of deep underground reservoirs
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Original article (peer-reviewed)

Journal Sedimentology
Volume (Issue) 66
Page(s) 362 - 390
Title of proceedings Sedimentology
DOI 10.1111/sed.12530

Open Access

Type of Open Access Repository (Green Open Access)


The Trigonodus Dolomit is the dolomitized portion of the homoclinal ramp sediments of the Middle Triassic Upper Muschelkalk in the south-east Central European Basin. Various dolomitizing mechanisms, followed by recrystalliza- tion, have been previously invoked to explain the low d18O, high 87Sr/86Sr, extensive spatial distribution and early nature of the replacive matrix dolo- mites. This study re-evaluates the origin, timing and characteristics of the dolomitizing fluids by examining petrographic and isotopic trends in the Trigonodus Dolomit at 11 boreholes in northern Switzerland. In each borehole the ca 30 m thick unit displays the same vertical trends with increasing depth: crystal size increase, change from anhedral to euhedral textures, ultra- violet-fluorescence decrease, d18OVPDB decrease from 1 0& at the top to 6 7& at the base and an 87Sr/86Sr increase from 0 7080 at the top to 0 7117 at the base. Thus, dolomites at the top of the unit record isotopic values simi- lar to Middle Triassic seawater (d18OVSMOW = 0&; 87Sr/86Sr = 0 70775) while dolomites at the base record values similar to meteoric groundwaters from the nearby Vindelician High (d18OVSMOW = 4 0&; 87Sr/86Sr = >0 712). According to water–rock interaction modelling, a single dolomitizing or recrystallizing fluid cannot have produced the observed isotopic trends. Instead, the com- bined isotopic, geochemical and petrographic data can be explained by dolomitization via seepage-reflux of hypersaline brines into dense, horizon- tally-advecting groundwaters that already had negative d18O and high 87Sr/86Sr values. Evidence for the early groundwaters is found in meteoric calcite cements that preceded dolomitization and in fully recrystallized dolo- mites with isotopic characteristics identical to the groundwaters following matrix dolomitization. This study demonstrates that early groundwaters can play a decisive role in the formation and recrystallization of massive dolomites and that the isotopic and textural signatures of pre-existing groundwaters can be pre- served during seepage-reflux dolomitization in low-angle carbonate ramps.