Abstract

Caliche in various forms, namely powdery, nodule, tube, fracture-infill, laminar crust, hard laminated crust (hardpan), and pisolitic crust, is widespread in the Mersin area in southern Turkey. It generally occurs within and/or over the reddish-brown mudstone of the Kuzgun Formation (Tortonian, Miocene) and alluvial red soils of the Quaternary. The mineralogical distribution along representative caliche profiles was examined by X-ray diffraction, scanning electron microscopy, differential thermal analysis-thermal gravimetry, and chemical techniques. Calcite is the most abundant mineral associated with minor amounts of palygorskite in caliche samples, whereas smectite is prevalent mainly in the reddish-brown mudstone and alluvial red soils of the caliche parent materials and is associated with appreciable amounts of palygorskite. These minerals are also accompanied by trace amount of illite, quartz, feldspar, and a poorly crystalline phase. Palygorskite fibers and fiber bundles were developed authigenically on euhedral or subhedral calcite crystals of the caliche units and at the edges of smectite flakes in the caliche host-rocks or sediments. Intense, continuous evaporation of subsurface soil-water resulted in an increase in pH and the dissolution of detrital smectite within the red mudstones and alluvial red soils that enclose the isolated caliche forms, and caused an increase in the Al+Fe and Mg/Ca ratio, favoring the formation of palygorskite under alkaline conditions. The calcium required for caliche formation may have originated from eolian dust, detrital carbonate minerals, and/or other caliche materials, which are dissolved by carbonic acid.

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