Shallow-water carbonate sediments constitute the bulk of sedimentary carbonates in the geologic record and are widely used archives of Earth's chemical and climatic history. One of the main limitations in interpreting the geochemistry of ancient carbonate sediments is the potential for post-depositional diagenetic alteration. In this study, we use paired measurements of calcium (44Ca/40Ca or δ44Ca) and magnesium (26Mg/24Mg or δ26Mg) isotope ratios in sedimentary carbonates and associated pore-fluids as a tool to understand the mineralogical and diagenetic history of Neogene shallow-water carbonate sediments from the Bahamas and southwest Australia. We find that the Ca and Mg isotopic composition of bulk carbonate sediments at these sites exhibits systematic stratigraphic variability that is related to both mineralogy and early marine diagenesis. The observed variability in bulk sediment Ca isotopes is best explained by changes in the extent and style of early marine diagenesis from one where the composition of the diagenetic carbonate mineral is determined by the chemistry of the fluid (fluid-buffered) to one where the composition of the diagenetic carbonate mineral is determined by the chemistry of the precursor sediment (sediment-buffered). Our results indicate that this process, together with variations in carbonate mineralogy (aragonite, calcite, and dolomite), plays a fundamental and underappreciated role in determining the regional and global stratigraphic expressions of geochemical tracers (δ13C, δ18O, major, minor, and trace elements) in shallow-water carbonate sediments in the geologic record. Our results also provide evidence that a large shallow-water carbonate sink that is enriched in 44Ca can explain the mismatch between the δ44/40Ca value of rivers and deep-sea carbonate sediments and call into question the hypothesis that the δ44/40Ca value of seawater depends on the mineralogy of primary carbonate precipitations (e.g. 'aragonite seas' and 'calcite seas'). Finally, our results for sedimentary dolomites suggest that paired measurements of Ca and Mg isotopes may provide a unique geochemical fingerprint of mass transfer during dolomitization to better understand the paleo-environmental information preserved in these enigmatic but widespread carbonate minerals.
- Carbonate geochemistry