Aluminum-phosphate–sulfate (APS) minerals, formed during early diagenesis in relation to acid meteoric waters, are the main host of Sr and S in the Early–Middle Triassic continental sandstones of the Iberian Ranges (east of the Iberian Peninsula). The sources of these elements and the effects of paleoenvironmetal changes on these sources and on the formation of APS minerals during Early–Middle Triassic times, were established on the basis of Sr and S isotopic analyses.
The S and Sr data (δ34S V-CDT = +11 to +14‰ and 87Sr/86Sr = 0.7099–0.7247, respectively) can be interpreted as resulting from mixing of different sources. Strontium was sourced from the dissolution of pre-existing minerals like K-feldspar and clay minerals inherited from the source areas, causing high radiogenic values. However, the isotopic signal must also be influenced by other sources, such as marine or volcanic aerosol that decreased the total 87Sr/86Sr ratios. Marine and volcanic aerosols were also sources of sulfur, but the δ34S was lowered by dissolution of pre-existing sulfides, mainly pyrite. Pyrite dissolution and volcanic aerosols would also trigger the acid conditions required for the precipitation of APS minerals.
APS minerals in the study area are found mainly in the Cañizar Formation (Olenekian?–Aegian), which has the lowest 87Sr/86Sr ratios. The lower abundance of APS minerals in the Eslida Formation (Aegian–Pelsonian) may indicate change in the acidity of pore water towards more alkaline conditions, while the increased 87Sr/86Sr ratios imply decreased Sr input from volcanic activity and/or marine aerosol inputs during Anisian times. Therefore, the decrease in abundance of APS minerals from the Early to Middle Triassic and the variations in the sources of Sr and S are indicative of changes in paleoenvironmental conditions during the beginning of the Triassic Period.
These changes from acid to more alkaline conditions are also coincident with the first appearance of carbonate paleosols, trace fossils, and plant fossils in the upper part of the Cañizar Formation (and more in the overlying Eslida Formation) and mark the beginning of biotic recovery in this area. The presence of APS minerals in other European basins of the Western Tethys (such as the German Basin, the Paris Basin and the southeastern France and Sardinia basins) could thus also indicate that unfavorable environmental conditions caused delay in biotic recovery in those areas. In general, the presence of APS minerals may be used as an indicator of arid, acidic conditions unfavorable to biotic colonization.