Abstract

Although marine brines are a significant component of pore waters in sedimentary basins, there are few geochemical studies of modern analogues of such systems, especially in siliciclastic settings. For these reasons, we chose the evaporite-associated siliciclastic sediments deposited in the salt flats of the Salina Ometepec, Baja California, for an integrated investigation of sediment, pore-water, and overlying brine geochemistry. Here, the detrital components include quartz, K-feldspar, plagioclase, chlorite, biotite, and smectite, and authigenic minerals are dominated by halite, gypsum, and K-rich magnesium smectite.

Thermal and saline stresses on the sediments of the Salina Ometepec keep both organic and inorganic carbon concentrations in the sediments unusually low relative to other coastal marine environments. Sediment pore waters exhibit little microbial sulfate reduction, and dissolved inorganic C contents are also very low. As a result, we did not observe carbonate and sulfide mineral authigenesis in the Salina Ometepec sediments. Instead, pore-water geochemical evolution is largely controlled by evaporative concentration of seawater, evaporite-mineral dissolution and recrystallization, and diagenetic alteration of detrital aluminosilicates.

Evaporite-mineral recycling affects the compositional evolution of surficial brines even before they infiltrate the sediment. Specifically, Na+ and Cl concentrations are increased owing to halite dissolution. We see significant Br enrichment relative to expected seawater evaporation trends in near-surface pore water, secondary to dissolution of K- and Mg salts. Because bacterial sulfate reduction is inhibited in the Salina Ometepec sediments, sulfate concentrations are more accurate indicators of the degree of evaporation than Br, a usually conservative element during geochemical reactions.

Pore waters exhibit down-core increases in dissolved Mg2+, K+, and

\(H_{4}SiO_{4}^{0}\)
over the upper 1 m. Authigenic K-rich Mg-smectite formation is promoted by the concurrent processes of brine concentration, selective dissolution of K- and Mg-bearing salts, and dissolution of detrital aluminosilicates. Pore waters at a depth of 1 m have 87Sr/86Sr ratios that require input of Sr that is less radiogenic than that of Gulf of California seawater. This Sr is likely derived from weathering of detrital aluminosilicates from nearby volcaniclastic sources. These results show that significant chemical interactions among marine brines, evaporite minerals, and detrital aluminosilicates can occur relatively soon after sedimentation.

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