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Rocky Mountain carbonate spring deposit development

  • Author / Creator
    Rainey, Dustin
  • Relict Holocene carbonate spring deposits containing diverse biotic and abiotic depositional textures are present at Fall Creek cold sulphur springs, Alberta, Fairmont Hot Springs, British Columbia, and Hot Creek cold springs, British Columbia. The relict deposits are formed mainly of low-magnesium crystalline calcite contained in laterally continuous strata. Paleo-flow regimes were characterized by extensive sheet flow that increased the surface area of spring water exposed to the atmosphere. Calcite precipitated inorganically from spring water that attained CaCO3 supersaturation through agitation-induced CO2 degassing that was facilitated by elevated flow rates and a large surface area as spring water flowed down-slope. Thus, the deposits contain only minor amounts of detrital, mechanically deposited, and biogenic carbonate. Evaporation was only a minor contributor to CaCO3 supersaturation, mainly in quiescent environments. Photosynthetic CO2 removal did not measurably contribute to CaCO3 supersaturation. Calcite crystals precipitated in biotic facies formed from low to moderately supersaturated spring water, whereas abiotic dendrite crystals formed rapidly from highly supersaturated spring water. Calcite passively nucleated on cyanobacteria, bryophytes and macrophytes, and was probably facilitated by cyanobacterial extracellular polymeric substances. Cyanobacterial filaments and stromatolites are integral parts of all three deposits, whereas bryophytes were restricted to the Fall Creek and Hot Creek deposits. Diagenetic microbial degradation of crystalline calcite was common to all three deposits, but recrystallization was limited to the Fall Creek deposit. The amount and location of calcite precipitation relative to the vents was controlled by the concentrations of Ca2+ and HCO3- in solution, and discharge volume fluctuations. Spring water with high [Ca2+] and [HCO3-] precipitated large amounts of calcite proximal to the vents (e.g. Fairmont), whereas spring water with low [Ca2+] and [HCO3-] precipitated smaller quantities of calcite and required longer flow distances to achieve CaCO3 supersaturation (e.g. Hot Creek). Spring water discharge volumes were controlled mainly by seasonal to millennial fluctuations in meteoric precipitation. Modern spring systems are characterized by reduced discharge volumes, channeled flow, and minimal calcite precipitation. Currently, spring water does not precipitate calcite where it flows into streams prior to achieving critical CaCO3 supersaturation (e.g. Fall Creek).

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    2009-11
  • Type of Item
    Thesis
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
    https://doi.org/10.7939/R3462X
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
  • Language
    English
  • Institution
    University of Alberta
  • Degree level
    Doctoral
  • Department
    • Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences
  • Supervisor / co-supervisor and their department(s)
    • Jones, Brian (Earth and Atmospheric Sciences)
  • Examining committee members and their departments
    • Schmitt, Douglas (Physics)
    • Sharp, Martin (Earth and Atmospheric Sciences)
    • Chafetz, Henry (Earth & Atmospheric Sciences Department, University of Houston)
    • Muehlenbachs, Karlis (Earth & Atmospheric Sciences)
    • Luth, Robert (Earth & Atmospheric Sciences)