Environmental control of seawater geochemistry in a Mesoarchean Peritidal System, Woman Lake, Superior Province
Master of Science
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The 2.857±5 Ga (this study) carbonate platform at Woman Lake, Ontario, Canada, presents a unique opportunity to fill a 130 million year knowledge gap on early carbonate sedimentology and ocean chemistry between similar platform occurrences at Steep Rock Lake (2.80Ga) and Red Lake (2.93Ga). Woman Lake carbonates are among the few very early and thick carbonate platforms to develop in the Mesoarchean. Field, petrographic, and geochemical investigations were performed on the limestone sequence to better understand the paleoenvironmental context of this understudied, 90-meter-thick succession. At the base of the carbonate platform, lying atop felsic subaerial Archean tuff, are stratiform stromatolites interbedded with thin beds of massive carbonate grainstone, followed by laterally linked low domal stromatolites, which gradually become larger domes, then bioherms with walled pseudocolumnar stromatolites. They are overlain by cross-stratified and parallel laminated carbonate grainstones and more pseudocolumnar stromatolites. A variety of fenestral microbialites overly this unit, including thrombolites, stromatactis-bearing low domal stromatolites, and narrow isolated columnar stromatolites. This is followed by a cyclic succession of low domal stromatolites alternating with microbial carbonate and carbonate grainstone. Three main stromatolitic morphologies exist and represent a range of low to moderate current energies from upper intertidal to subtidal environments. They are: 1) low relief stratiform to undulating stromatolites 2) laterally linked low domal and pseudocolumnar stromatolites, and 3) isolated to locally isolated domes and narrow columnar stromatolites. Evidence here supports mainly peritidal environments on a carbonate platform with fluctuating sea-level and water energies in an overall deepening succession. The diverse carbonate facies are comprised of geochemical features reminiscent of both Archean and modern signatures in shale normalized REE patterns. Trace elements indicate that the carbonates precipitated from a mixture of two different fluids: anoxic seawater that carried a positive Eu anomaly, and oxygenated waters that imparted significant negative Ce anomalies. On a microscopic scale, using LA-ICP-MS, there is less compositional contrast between carbonate phases, which indicates that dissolution and precipitation on a small spatial scale homogenized localized areas, but did not affect changes on a metric scale. Geochemical trends paired with stratigraphic depth show decameter cycles of gradual declines in Mg, Fe, Mn, Ba and Sr substitution into the calcite lattice followed by sharp increases throughout the platform’s deposition, possibly reflecting changing accommodation space effecting precipitation rate. Typical Archean values for δ 13Cranging from -3.83‰ to 1.30‰, with an average of 0.53‰ (±0.59, n=31) occur with Y/Ho ratios ranging from 27 to 117 and 87Sr/86Sr isotopic values from 0.700346 to 0.711313 (±0.00098 (1σ)). The observed trends suggest that the precipitating carbonates were able to record and retain the effects of an evolving water column had in the local environment. Importantly, the Woman Lake carbonate platform provides context for, and evidence of, free oxygen approximately 500 million years before the Great Oxygenation Event, during a relatively undocumented period in time.