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Sedimentology and isotope geochemistry of transitional evaporitic environments within arid continental settings: From erg to saline lakes

Pettigrew, RP; Claire, MW; Priddy, C; Clarke, S; Warke, MR; Stüeken, EE

Sedimentology and isotope geochemistry of transitional evaporitic environments within arid continental settings: From erg to saline lakes Thumbnail


RP Pettigrew

MW Claire

C Priddy

MR Warke

EE Stüeken


Arid continental basins typically contain a spectrum of coeval environments that coexist and interact from proximal to distal. Within the distal portion, aeolian ergs often border playa, or perennial, desert lakes, fed by fluvial incursions or elevated groundwaters. Evaporites are common features in these dryland, siliciclastic dominant settings. However, sedimentary controls upon evaporite deposition are not widely understood, especially within transitional zones between coeval clastic environments that are dominantly controlled by larger scale allocyclic processes, such as climate. The sulphur (d34S) and oxygen (d18O, ?17O) isotope systematics of evaporites can reveal cryptic aspects of sedimentary cycling and sulphate sources in dryland settings. However, due to the lack of sedimentological understanding of evaporitic systems, isotopic data can be easily misinterpreted. This work presents detailed sedimentological and petrographic observations, coupled with d34S, d18O and ?17O data, for the early Permian Cedar Mesa Sandstone Formation (western USA). Depositional models for mixed evaporitic / clastic sedimentation, which occurs either in erg-marginal or lacustrine-marginal settings, are presented to detail the sedimentary interactions present in terms of climate variations that control them. Sedimentological and petrographical analysis of the evaporites within the Cedar Mesa Sandstone Formation reveal a continental depositional environment and two end member depositional models have been developed: erg-margin and lake-margin. The d34S values of gypsum deposits within the Cedar Mesa Sandstone Formation are consistent with late Carboniferous to early Permian marine settings. However, a marine interpretation is inconsistent with sedimentological and petrographic evidence. Consequently, d34S, d18O and ?17O values are probably recycled and do not reflect ocean-atmosphere values at the time of evaporite precipitation. They are most likely derived from the weathering of older marine evaporites in the hinterland. Thus, the results demonstrate the need for a combination of both sedimentological and geochemical analysis of evaporitic systems to better understand their depositional setting and conditions.

Acceptance Date Oct 29, 2020
Publication Date Oct 29, 2020
Journal Sedimentology
Print ISSN 0037-0746
Publisher Wiley
Pages 907-942
Keywords Aeolian; Cedar Mesa Sandstone; gypsum; playa lakes; ?17O; d34S
Publisher URL


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