Modeling Stromatolite Growth Under Oscillatory Flows

Wednesday, 17 December 2014
Harsh Jayendra Patel1, Jian Gong1 and Michael M Tice2, (1)Texas A & M University, College Station, TX, United States, (2)Texas A&M University, College Station, TX, United States
Stromatolite growth models based on diffusion limited aggregation (DLA) has been fairly successful at producing features commonly recognized in stromatolitic structures in the rock record. These models generally require slow mixing of solutes at time scales comparable to the growth of organisms and largely ignore fluid erosions. Recent research on microbial mats suggests that fluid flow might have a dominant control on the formation, deformation and erosion of surface microbial structures, raising the possibility that different styles of fluid flow may influence the morphology of stromatolites. Many stromatolites formed in relatively high energy, shallow water environments under oscillatory currents driven by wind-induced waves. In order to investigate the potential role of oscillatory flows in shaping stromatolites, we are constructing a numerical model of stromatolite growth parameterized by flume experiments with cyanobacterial biofilms. The model explicitly incorporates reaction-diffusion processes, surface deformation and erosion, biomass growth, sedimentation and mineral precipitation. A Lattice-Boltzmann numerical scheme was applied to the reaction-diffusion equations in order to boost computational efficiency. A basic finite element method was employed to compute surface deformation and erosion. Growth of biomass, sedimentation and carbonate precipitation was based on a modified discrete cellular automata scheme. This model will be used to test an alternative hypothesis for the formation of stromatolites in higher energy, shallow and oscillatory flow environments.