Abstract

The Fall Creek Tufa is a relict, mid- to late-Holocene freshwater carbonate spring deposit that is formed almost entirely of calcite-encased Cratoneuron commutatum gametophytes. The spring is presently active, emitting 13 °C meteorically derived waters, but it is not precipitating calcite. Wood embedded in the youngest part of the tufa yielded a radiocarbon (14C) date of 310 ± 50 years BP. The oldest parts of the deposit could not be dated by radiocarbon methods because of a lack of embedded organics. The Fall Creek Tufa, however, probably began forming ∼5000 years BP in response to the same wet climatic conditions that initiated calcite precipitation at Miette Hot Springs in Jasper National Park and the Cave and Basin Hot Springs in Banff National Park. The relict deposit is composed largely of calcite cements that were precipitated around the bryophytes, with lesser amounts of internal sediments. The tufa formed through a repeated four-stage developmental process that involved (I) encrustation, (II) encapsulation, (III) cavity occlusion, and (IV) diagenetic alteration. These stages were temporally and spatially variable. Although a young deposit, much of it has undergone extensive aggrading recrystallization, whereby crystal size has increased as adjacent calcite crystals were sutured together. Epifluorescence microscopy shows that primary depositional fabrics were masked, but not destroyed, during recrystallization. Narrow ranges of δ18O (VPDB, Vienna Pee-Dee Belemnite standard) values (–18.4‰ to –17.7‰) and δ13C (VPDB) values (–1.2‰ to 0.5‰) indicate that the calcite was in isotopic equilibrium with the water that it precipitated from, and that diagenesis did not reset the stable oxygen and carbon isotopic compositions.

You do not currently have access to this article.