The Galdrings cliffs of Machrihanish, in the Kintyre Peninsula of Scotland, expose a Lower Carboniferous clastic succession that hosts a wide variety of calcretes, including thick and massive host-replacing phreatic calcrete hardpans (HRPCHs), which are geologically rare, and which are the products of a thorough replacement of host minerals by calcite in the mixing zone between fresh and evaporitic groundwaters. Isotopic values of 53 samples from various calcretes distributed in a c. 45 m thick succession provided well-defined trends of covariance between carbon and oxygen isotopes, thus delineating trends of aridification and humidification from the interplay of precipitation and evaporation rates. Although values from HRPCHs are more constrained, all other forms of calcrete in the succession (pedogenic nodules, pillar calcrete, laminar calcrete and invasive phreatic calcrete cement in sandstone) follow similar stable isotopic trends. An aridification trend preceded the formation of each HRPCH occurrence, corroborating studies on modern equivalents that suggest that they develop in the more arid range of calcrete formation. The better constrained isotopic values of HRPCHs compared with those of more common forms of calcrete are interpreted to be indicative of more specific environmental requirements, which may in part explain their rarity in the geological record.

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