Growth and development of spring towers at Shiqiang, Yunnan Province, China.

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  • Throughout the world, high artesian pressures in hydrothermal areas have led to the growth of tall spring towers that have their vents at their summits. The factors that control their development and formative precipitates are poorly understood because these springs, irrespective of location, are mostly inactive. Spring towers found at Shiqiang (Yunnan Province, China), which are up to 4 m high and 3 m in diameter, are formed largely of calcite and aragonite crystal bushes, euhedral calcite crystals and coated grains with alternating Fe-poor and Fe-rich zones, calcite rafts, and cements formed of various combinations of calcite, aragonite, strontianite, Mg-Si reticulate, needle fiber calcite, calcified and non-calcified microbes, diatoms, and insects. Collectively, the limestones that form the towers can be divided into (1) Group A that are friable, porous and form the cores of the towers and have δ18OSMOW values of + 15.7 to + 19.7‰ (average 17.8‰) and δ13CPDB values of + 5.1 to + 6.9‰ (average 5.9‰), and (2) Group B that are hard and well lithified and found largely around the vents and the tower sides, and have δ18OSMOW values of + 13.0 to + 22.0‰ (average 17.6‰) and δ13CPDB values of + 1.4 to + 3.6‰ (average 2.6‰). The precipitates and the isotopic values indicate that these were thermogene springs. Growth of the Shiqiang spring towers involved (1) Phase IA when precipitation of calcite and aragonite bushes formed the core of the tower and Phase IB when calcite, commonly Fe-rich, was precipitated locally, (2) Phase II that involved the precipitation of white cements, formed of calcite, aragonite, strontianite, and Mg-Si reticulate coatings in cavities amid the Phase I precipitates, and (3) Phase III, which formed probably after spring activity ceased, when needle-fiber calcite was precipitated and the mounds were invaded by microbes (some now calcified), diatoms, and insects. At various times during this complex history, pore waters mediated dissolution of the calcite and aragonite and sometimes partial alteration of the aragonite. The diverse array of precipitates, depositional fabrics and diagenetic changes clearly indicate that the composition of the spring water changed frequently. Growth of the spring towers at Shiqiang continued until there was insufficient artesian pressure to lift the water above the top of the tower vent.

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    Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International