Palaeoenvironmental setting of lacustrine stromatolites in the Miocene Wudaoliang Group, northern Tibetan Plateau

Ling Qi Zeng, Hai Sheng Yi, Guo Qing Xia, Klaus Simon, Christine Marcelle Heim, Gernot Arp

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Lacustrine stromatolites were widespread in the Miocene Wudaoliang Group (stromatolites of the Wudaoliang Group), northern Tibetan Plateau; but only at one location nearby the Wudaoliang Town, they occurred intensively in thick, laterally traceable beds (Wudaoliang stromatolites). Although deposited in lacustrine environment, the lack of fossils in these rocks hampers determining whether the stromatolites formed in freshwater or saline conditions. To address this problem, and in an attempt to identify criteria to distinguish differences of freshwater and saline conditions, we studied the laminae microfabrics, stable carbon and oxygen isotope ratios, rare earth element patterns and biomarkers of the stromatolites. These stromatolites can be divided into fenestral stromatolites and agglutinated stromatolites. The fabric of fenestral stromatolites is formed by microcrystalline carbonate enclosing spar-cemented, angular crystal traces. Essentially, this fabric is interpreted as pseudomorph after former formed evaporite crystals. Faecal pellets identical to that of the present-day brine shrimp Artemia, lack of other eukaryotic fossils, and stable isotopic signals point to a shallow, evaporation-dominated hypersaline lake setting. Covariation of carbon and oxygen isotopes indicates hydrologically closed conditions of the Miocene lake on northern Tibetan Plateau. However, if compared to other lacustrine carbonates of the Wudaoliang Group, the high δ 13 C values of the investigated Wudaoliang stromatolites reveal an additional photosynthetic effect during the deposition of the stromatolites. Furthermore, although no direct evidence is available from field observations and microfabrics, a positive europium anomaly of Wudaoliang stromatolites indicates that a palaeo-hydrothermal inflow system had existed in the outcrop area. These new results favour a hypersaline lake setting subject to hot spring inflow for the Wudaoliang stromatolites, in contrast to earlier interpretations suggesting a freshwater lake setting (e.g. Yi et al., Journal of Mineralogy and Petrology 28: 106–113, 2008; Zeng et al., Journal of Mineralogy and Petrology 31: 111–119, 2011). This approach may be appropriate for other lacustrine, unfossiliferous microbialites in settings where the environmental conditions are difficult to determine.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number18
JournalJournal of Palaeogeography
Volume8
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 1 2019

Fingerprint

Miocene
plateau
lake
petrology
mineralogy
inflow
Group
lack
pseudomorph
fossil
crystal
carbonate
europium
oxygen isotope ratio
environmental factors
carbon isotope ratio
lacustrine environment
fecal pellet
thermal spring
town

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Palaeontology

Cite this

@article{b6634c0c7fab4dcdb32c13c07b6ac4ef,
title = "Palaeoenvironmental setting of lacustrine stromatolites in the Miocene Wudaoliang Group, northern Tibetan Plateau",
abstract = "Lacustrine stromatolites were widespread in the Miocene Wudaoliang Group (stromatolites of the Wudaoliang Group), northern Tibetan Plateau; but only at one location nearby the Wudaoliang Town, they occurred intensively in thick, laterally traceable beds (Wudaoliang stromatolites). Although deposited in lacustrine environment, the lack of fossils in these rocks hampers determining whether the stromatolites formed in freshwater or saline conditions. To address this problem, and in an attempt to identify criteria to distinguish differences of freshwater and saline conditions, we studied the laminae microfabrics, stable carbon and oxygen isotope ratios, rare earth element patterns and biomarkers of the stromatolites. These stromatolites can be divided into fenestral stromatolites and agglutinated stromatolites. The fabric of fenestral stromatolites is formed by microcrystalline carbonate enclosing spar-cemented, angular crystal traces. Essentially, this fabric is interpreted as pseudomorph after former formed evaporite crystals. Faecal pellets identical to that of the present-day brine shrimp Artemia, lack of other eukaryotic fossils, and stable isotopic signals point to a shallow, evaporation-dominated hypersaline lake setting. Covariation of carbon and oxygen isotopes indicates hydrologically closed conditions of the Miocene lake on northern Tibetan Plateau. However, if compared to other lacustrine carbonates of the Wudaoliang Group, the high δ 13 C values of the investigated Wudaoliang stromatolites reveal an additional photosynthetic effect during the deposition of the stromatolites. Furthermore, although no direct evidence is available from field observations and microfabrics, a positive europium anomaly of Wudaoliang stromatolites indicates that a palaeo-hydrothermal inflow system had existed in the outcrop area. These new results favour a hypersaline lake setting subject to hot spring inflow for the Wudaoliang stromatolites, in contrast to earlier interpretations suggesting a freshwater lake setting (e.g. Yi et al., Journal of Mineralogy and Petrology 28: 106–113, 2008; Zeng et al., Journal of Mineralogy and Petrology 31: 111–119, 2011). This approach may be appropriate for other lacustrine, unfossiliferous microbialites in settings where the environmental conditions are difficult to determine.",
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Palaeoenvironmental setting of lacustrine stromatolites in the Miocene Wudaoliang Group, northern Tibetan Plateau. / Zeng, Ling Qi; Yi, Hai Sheng; Xia, Guo Qing; Simon, Klaus; Heim, Christine Marcelle; Arp, Gernot.

In: Journal of Palaeogeography, Vol. 8, No. 1, 18, 01.12.2019.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

TY - JOUR

T1 - Palaeoenvironmental setting of lacustrine stromatolites in the Miocene Wudaoliang Group, northern Tibetan Plateau

AU - Zeng, Ling Qi

AU - Yi, Hai Sheng

AU - Xia, Guo Qing

AU - Simon, Klaus

AU - Heim, Christine Marcelle

AU - Arp, Gernot

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N2 - Lacustrine stromatolites were widespread in the Miocene Wudaoliang Group (stromatolites of the Wudaoliang Group), northern Tibetan Plateau; but only at one location nearby the Wudaoliang Town, they occurred intensively in thick, laterally traceable beds (Wudaoliang stromatolites). Although deposited in lacustrine environment, the lack of fossils in these rocks hampers determining whether the stromatolites formed in freshwater or saline conditions. To address this problem, and in an attempt to identify criteria to distinguish differences of freshwater and saline conditions, we studied the laminae microfabrics, stable carbon and oxygen isotope ratios, rare earth element patterns and biomarkers of the stromatolites. These stromatolites can be divided into fenestral stromatolites and agglutinated stromatolites. The fabric of fenestral stromatolites is formed by microcrystalline carbonate enclosing spar-cemented, angular crystal traces. Essentially, this fabric is interpreted as pseudomorph after former formed evaporite crystals. Faecal pellets identical to that of the present-day brine shrimp Artemia, lack of other eukaryotic fossils, and stable isotopic signals point to a shallow, evaporation-dominated hypersaline lake setting. Covariation of carbon and oxygen isotopes indicates hydrologically closed conditions of the Miocene lake on northern Tibetan Plateau. However, if compared to other lacustrine carbonates of the Wudaoliang Group, the high δ 13 C values of the investigated Wudaoliang stromatolites reveal an additional photosynthetic effect during the deposition of the stromatolites. Furthermore, although no direct evidence is available from field observations and microfabrics, a positive europium anomaly of Wudaoliang stromatolites indicates that a palaeo-hydrothermal inflow system had existed in the outcrop area. These new results favour a hypersaline lake setting subject to hot spring inflow for the Wudaoliang stromatolites, in contrast to earlier interpretations suggesting a freshwater lake setting (e.g. Yi et al., Journal of Mineralogy and Petrology 28: 106–113, 2008; Zeng et al., Journal of Mineralogy and Petrology 31: 111–119, 2011). This approach may be appropriate for other lacustrine, unfossiliferous microbialites in settings where the environmental conditions are difficult to determine.

AB - Lacustrine stromatolites were widespread in the Miocene Wudaoliang Group (stromatolites of the Wudaoliang Group), northern Tibetan Plateau; but only at one location nearby the Wudaoliang Town, they occurred intensively in thick, laterally traceable beds (Wudaoliang stromatolites). Although deposited in lacustrine environment, the lack of fossils in these rocks hampers determining whether the stromatolites formed in freshwater or saline conditions. To address this problem, and in an attempt to identify criteria to distinguish differences of freshwater and saline conditions, we studied the laminae microfabrics, stable carbon and oxygen isotope ratios, rare earth element patterns and biomarkers of the stromatolites. These stromatolites can be divided into fenestral stromatolites and agglutinated stromatolites. The fabric of fenestral stromatolites is formed by microcrystalline carbonate enclosing spar-cemented, angular crystal traces. Essentially, this fabric is interpreted as pseudomorph after former formed evaporite crystals. Faecal pellets identical to that of the present-day brine shrimp Artemia, lack of other eukaryotic fossils, and stable isotopic signals point to a shallow, evaporation-dominated hypersaline lake setting. Covariation of carbon and oxygen isotopes indicates hydrologically closed conditions of the Miocene lake on northern Tibetan Plateau. However, if compared to other lacustrine carbonates of the Wudaoliang Group, the high δ 13 C values of the investigated Wudaoliang stromatolites reveal an additional photosynthetic effect during the deposition of the stromatolites. Furthermore, although no direct evidence is available from field observations and microfabrics, a positive europium anomaly of Wudaoliang stromatolites indicates that a palaeo-hydrothermal inflow system had existed in the outcrop area. These new results favour a hypersaline lake setting subject to hot spring inflow for the Wudaoliang stromatolites, in contrast to earlier interpretations suggesting a freshwater lake setting (e.g. Yi et al., Journal of Mineralogy and Petrology 28: 106–113, 2008; Zeng et al., Journal of Mineralogy and Petrology 31: 111–119, 2011). This approach may be appropriate for other lacustrine, unfossiliferous microbialites in settings where the environmental conditions are difficult to determine.

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