Based on petrographic, mineralogical, isotope, and facies assemblage analysis, a microbial origin is established for the formation of dolomite associated with gypsum in Miocene evaporite lake deposits of the Madrid Basin, central Spain. In these deposits, dolomite is present as both intercalated carbonate beds, locally showing domal stromatolite structures between packages of selenite Christmas tree-like gypsum, and patches replacing macrocrystalline gypsum.
Texture of the dolomite is characterized by crystal aggregates showing a variety of crystal sizes and morphologies, e.g., platelets, rhombs, micro-rods, and rings, whilst larger crystals are commonly spherical and/or wheat-grain shaped. Organic remains, in the form of filaments, shrubs, micro-fibrils, and strands, are also common and contain significant amounts of carbon. These textural features are also recognized in dolomite replacing gypsum, where Fe oxide and sulfide as well as celestite are ubiquitous mixed with the dolomite groundmass. The dolomite, whether primary or replacing gypsum, is poorly ordered and slightly Ca-rich, thus non stoichiometric. Stable-isotope compositions are characterized by negative values for both oxygen and carbon. Dolomite beds featuring domal stromatolites have δ18O values ranging from −2.99‰ and −3.79‰ and δ13C values ranging from −4.67‰ and −7.35‰, whilst δ13C values determined in the dolomite replacive of gypsum shows a small range of variation between −5.70‰ and −6.96‰. By contrast, δ18O values of replacive dolomite oscillate in a wider range (from −3.04‰ to −7.99‰).
Formation of the dolomite was associated mainly with microbial mats, having taken place in relatively diluted lake water. Further evaporative concentration resulted in precipitation of gypsum crystals sealing the mats and creating endoevaporitic microenvironments in which endolithic cyanobaterial activity produced extensive boring and corrosion of the gypsum crystals. Hiatuses in gypsum growth caused an intensification of the corrosion process and favored the precipitation of dolomite mediated by microbes, resulting in pervasive replacement of the sulfate.