Although siderite is a widespread early diagenetic mineral in fluvial systems, it is unstable in oxidizing environments and destroyed in permeable rocks that experience uplift and exhumation. The products of siderite oxidation, however, (mm- to cm-scale rhombs, concretions, and complex bands of iron-oxide cement) are widespread in the rock record of fluvial systems. The fluvial channels of the Shinarump Member of the Chinle Formation in southern Utah and northern Arizona, U.S.A., provide an excellent suite of examples of diagenetic features produced by Triassic and Neogene oxidation of early diagenetic siderite. These diagenetic features also provide direct evidence of the level of the water table during deposition of the Shinarump member.
Large, in situ, discoidal concretions containing preserved siderite are present in Shinarump floodplain siltstones. Rip-up clasts derived from the siltstones developed iron-oxide rinds during late-stage, near-surface oxidation. These two structures show that floodplain silts contained abundant organic matter and methanic pore water. Groundwater recharging through these silts carried reducing water through underlying sand bodies and discharged into active channels. Degassing of CO2 and methanogenesis caused rhombic crystals of siderite to precipitate in channel sands during these wet intervals. Some of this siderite may have been oxidized during dry intervals when groundwater circulation reversed, but most siderite in the channel sands was preserved until the Shinarump was exhumed during the Neogene.
As oxygenated near-surface water entered joints in the lithified Shinarump, colonies of iron-oxidizing microbes living in the phreatic zone occupied redox boundaries and used the rhombic crystals of siderite in the sandstone and the spherulitic siderite in transported siltstone intraclasts as their sources of energy and carbon. The ferrous iron released from dissolving siderite within the intraclasts was oxidized at the siltstone–sandstone contact, generating rinded concretions similar to those in the Cretaceous Dakota Formation. Complex banding known as wonderstone was produced in the channel sandstones from oxidation of the rhombic siderite; the pattern is a combination of Liesegang bands and microbially mediated cements. The preserved rhombs are pseudomorphs after siderite crystals that were either oxidized during Triassic dry intervals, or escaped Neogene microbial oxidation in the phreatic zone, only to be oxidized abiotically in the vadose zone. Microbes are likely oxidizing Shinarump siderite a few kilometers down dip of outcrops with exposed wonderstone. At such locations, the Shinarump is in contact with overlying water-saturated Quaternary alluvium.