Dolomite constitutes an average of 12% of the Holocene organic-rich sediments over a 15 km2 area of the Cangrejo Shoals mudbank in northern Belize. Although it defines a laterally persistent stratiform body that averages 3 m thick, it is present throughout the 7.6-m-thick sediment section. These transgressive sediments are less than ∼6400 years old and were deposited in shallow-marine environments of normal salinity. The dolomite is dominantly cement, and average crystal size is 7 m. There are no significant correlations among amount of dolomite vs. sediment texture, mineralogy, porosity, or mole % MgCO3 in associated particulate high-Mg calcite, depth, or location on the shoals. The dolomites are poorly ordered and calcic (39.5-44.5 mole % MgCO3), with low mean Mn (210 ppm) and relatively high mean Sr (1034 ppm) concentrations. There is no evidence of recrystallization or geochemical alteration of the dolomite. δ18O values of the dolomites range from 0.5 to 2.8‰PDB, and the mean value (2.1‰) suggests that the dolomite precipitated from normal-salinity pore water.
Dolomite δ13C values range from -5.2‰ to +11.6‰PDB (mean seawater δ13C = 0.5‰), which suggests dolomitization promoted by both bacterial sulfate reduction and methanogenesis in environments with anoxic pore water. Dolomitization attending these organodiagenetic reactions apparently was reversible over time, and episodic rather than continual precipitation is indicated. Requisite Mg and Ca were provided by seawater and by some dissolution of host sediments. The most rapid period of dolomitization may have been during early transgression, when relatively high sedimentation rates sustained high levels of organodiagenesis and pore-water alkalinities.