The channel iron deposits (CID) of the Hamersley Province in Western Australia are dominated by pedogenic goethite/hematite-rich ooids and pisoids that were transported to, and deposited in, the meandering channels of Miocene rivers. Information about the Miocene weathering environments that produced the Fe(III) oxides is archived in the mole fraction (X) and δ13C of the Fe(CO3)OH component in solid solution in oolitic CID goethite (α-FeOOH).Values of X and δ13C were measured for 12 oolitic goethite samples from different depths in two cores drilled in CID of the Robe Formation of Mesa J. The weighted-average plateau values of X ranged from 0.0098 to 0.0334, which suggest ambient CO2 concentrations that ranged from ∼50,000 ppm V to perhaps as much as ∼200,000 ppm V at the time of goethite crystallization. In a vadose zone characterized by in situ production of CO2 with steady-state Fickian diffusive transport of the gas, such concentrations would correspond to modeled soil respiration rates (Q) ranging from about 10 to 30 mmol/m2/h. Values for Q of about 10 mmol/m2/h are reported for soils in modern tropical forests with MAP ≥ ∼2000 mm. However, model-derived values of Q that exceed 15 mmol/m2/h are larger than observed in modern systems. This could indicate that some of the CID goethites crystallized in conditions that were phreatic or near phreatic rather than vadose.The δ13C values of the Fe(CO3)OH component in these 12 CID samples ranged from −24.0‰ to −22.3‰, which are among the most negative measured to date. If they reflect steady-state diffusive transport of CO2 in vadose environments, the soil CO2 would have been derived from a source with δ13C values that ranged from ∼−31‰ to −29‰. If, on the other hand, the goethites crystallized in a nearly phreatic environment that was moderately acidic, the inferred δ13C of the ancient CO2 source would have been about −27.6‰ to −25.8‰. In either case, the δ13C values point to in situ oxidation of C3 organic matter as the predominant source of the ambient CO2.The Fe(III) oxides in the CID ooids suggest crystallization in aerobic environments. However, even in aerobic environments, many microbial species can reduce the Fe3+ in oxides to relatively soluble Fe2+ and may have facilitated progressive Fe enrichment during multiple cycles of Fe(III) oxide dissolution and recrystallization. At the same time, microbially mediated oxidation of organic matter could have produced the high concentrations of soil CO2 with the very negative δ13C values recorded in the Fe(CO3)OH component in oolitic goethite.More frequent summer storms in the Miocene, may have been a significant factor in forming and eroding these soil systems and in concentrating large volumes of oolitic Fe(III) oxides in the local river systems to form channel iron deposits. However, published (U-Th)/He ages indicate that the oolitic CID goethites of Mesa J became closed systems after ∼7 Ma, which suggests a change in local climate and/or conditions of burial at about that time in the Miocene.
Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta – Elsevier
Published: Apr 15, 2018
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