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ABSTRACT: Physical Constraints on Dolomite Crust Formation, Ambergris Cay, Belize

B. A. Birdwell, W. D. Bischoff, S. J. Mazzullo

Dolomitic crusts forming on a peritidal flat on Ambergris Cay, Belize, occur beneath surface sediment adjacent to, but not within, small saline (60-90 ppt) ponds. Upper crusts, 2-12 cm thick, forming at or slightly below the water table (approximately equivalent to lagoon water level) are areally restricted by (1) ponds where sediment lies below 20-50 cm of water, (2) high and relatively dry areas where sediment accumulation of more than 15 cm above water level supports diverse vegetation, and (3) low areas affected by mangrove encroachment where preexisting crusts are perforated by roots and displaced. The lower crusts occur immediately above the Pleistocene in lows beneath the Holocene sediment and on exposed Pleistocene surfaces.

Estimates from x-ray diffraction analysis indicate 80-100% dolomite content within the upper crusts and 50-60% dolomite content in the lower crusts. Unlithified sediment above and below the upper crust contain up to 80% dolomite. Compositions range from Ca56 Mg44 in the upper crusts to Ca60 Mg40 in the lower crusts. There is no correlation between stoichiometry and ordering in the dolomites; all are poorly ordered as indicated by very weak (015) and (021) superstructure peaks.

Where crusts are not 100% dolomite, the dolomite is evident as euhedral cements within pores, especially within foraminiferal tests, and as micrite along algal laminations and walls of burrows. However, preliminary examinations with scanning electron microscopy and energy dispersive x-ray mapping show that magnesium enrichment is pervasive within these crusts and may represent Mg-enrichment of calcite as an intermediate stage in dolomite formation.

AAPG Search and Discovery Article #91003©1990 AAPG Annual Convention, San Francisco, California, June 3-6, 1990