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The AAPG/Datapages Combined Publications Database

Journal of Sedimentary Research (SEPM)


Journal of Sedimentary Petrology
Vol. 58 (1988)No. 3. (May), Pages 397-414

Water in Skeletal Carbonates

Susan J. Gaffey


Studies of a wide variety of modern and fossil skeletal carbonates indicate they all contain water in amounts ranging from a few tenths of one percent to as much as three percent by weight. The word water is used as a general term to include all inorganic liquid and bound H2O and OH-. Reflectance spectroscopy in the visible and near infrared (0.60 to 2.55 ┬Ám) reveals major differences among skeletal carbonates in the amount of water present, phases in which it occurs, and relative proportions of these phases. Liquid H2O is present in all skeletal material studied in the form of fluid inclusions. In some cases, most notably the molluscs, H2O is also associated with an organic matrix. A hydrated CaCO3 phase occurs in so e biogenic low-Mg calcites (LMCs) and aragonites, and two hydrated MgCO3 phases with differing bond energies occur in high-Mg calcites (HMCs). Many HMCs contain Mg(OH)2 and H2O bound to CaCO3 as well, and some biogenic aragonites contain Ca(OH)2. Water content varies with skeletal mineralogy, taxonomic group, and, in the case of the molluscs, with skeletal structure.

Alteration of aragonites and HMCs to LMCs is accompanied by order-of-magnitude changes in total water content. HMCs lose bound H2O and OH during alteration to LMCs. Ca(OH)2 and H2O bound to CaCO3may also be lost from biogenic aragonites, even in the absence of changes in bulk mineralogy. LMCs also lose H2O bound to CaCO3 during diagenesis. Fluid inclusions are lost during neomorphic alteration of aragonites and LMCs. However, skeletal material that retains its original bulk skeletal mineralogy and/or original microstructure as seen in thin section also retains the bulk of its original fluid inclusion content.

Water content can be used as a criterion for monitoring diagenetic alteration in carbonates. Water present in fluid inclusions can serve as a medium for diagenetic reactions. Bound H2O lost on heating could take part in diagenetic reactions during deep burial as well.

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