Diagenetic Iron Cycling in Ancient Alkaline Saline Lacustrine Sedimentary Rocks: A Case Study on the Jurassic Brushy Basin Member of the Morrison Formation, Colorado Plateau, USA
Abstract:The upper part of the Brushy Basin Member in the Four Corners region of the U.S. was deposited in an ephemeral alkaline saline lake system with copious input of volcanic ash. The variegated shale formation provides a setting for the study of early diagenetic iron cycling that records the action of alkaline saline fluid chemistries reacting with volcaniclastic sediments in the presence of microbes. A bull’s-eye pattern of authigenic minerals with increasing alteration towards the basinal center similar to modern alkaline saline lakes provides evidence for an extreme paleoenvironmental interpretation. The purpose of this research is to document specific factors, such as reactive sediments, microbial influences, and grain size that affect concretion formation and iron cycling in an ancient extreme environment.
Three broad diagenetic facies are interpreted by color and associated bioturbation features: red, green and intermediate. Diagenetic facies reflect meter-scale paleotopography: red facies represent shallow water to subaerial, oxidizing conditions; green facies reflect saturated conditions and reducing pore water chemistry shortly after deposition, and intermediate facies represent a combination of the previous two conditions. Evidence of biotic influence is abundant and trace fossils exhibit patterns associated with the diagenetic facies. Red diagenetic facies typically contain burrows and root traces and green diagenetic facies exhibit restricted biotic diversity typically limited to algal molds (vugs). Microbial fossils are well-preserved and are in close proximity to specific iron mineral textures suggesting biotic influence on the crystal morphology.
Three categories of concretions are characterized based on mineralogy: carbonate, iron (oxyhydr)oxide and phosphate concretions. Concretion mineralogy and size vary within an outcrop and even within a stratigraphic horizon such that more than one main category is typically present in an outcrop. Variation in concretion mineralogy and morphology within the Brushy Basin Member suggests that alkaline saline fluid chemistries in concert with microbial interaction created diagenetic microenvironments within a larger lake system to influence iron cycling and these reactions can be spatially variable even on 10s of cm scales.