Microstructure variability in freshwater microbialites, Pavilion Lake, Canada

Omelon, Christopher R., Brady, Alyson L., Slater, Greg F., Laval, Bernard, Lim, Darlene S. S. and Southam, Gordon (2013) Microstructure variability in freshwater microbialites, Pavilion Lake, Canada. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, 392 62-70. doi:10.1016/j.palaeo.2013.08.017

Author Omelon, Christopher R.
Brady, Alyson L.
Slater, Greg F.
Laval, Bernard
Lim, Darlene S. S.
Southam, Gordon
Title Microstructure variability in freshwater microbialites, Pavilion Lake, Canada
Journal name Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 0031-0182
Publication date 2013-12-15
Year available 2013
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1016/j.palaeo.2013.08.017
Open Access Status
Volume 392
Start page 62
End page 70
Total pages 9
Place of publication Amsterdam,The Netherlands
Publisher Elsevier BV
Language eng
Subject 1105 Dentistry
1911 Palaeontology
1904 Performing Arts and Creative Writing
1910 Oceanography
Abstract Calcite microbialites in Pavilion Lake, British Columbia, exhibit a diverse range in macro-morphology, biomass abundance, porosity, and mineral content. To evaluate the role of microorganisms in their formation, samples collected from a range of depths were examined by scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and synchrotron radiation-based micro-X-ray fluorescence (μ-XRF) spectroscopy to characterize both their outer surfaces as well as internal structures. Observed trends in both surface colonization as well as microbialite framework with increasing lake depth include decreasing microbial abundance on outer surfaces as well as increasing ratios of carbonate:biomass in the microbialites. Microscopic investigations of the interiors show bacteria and algae entrapped within calcite, with this calcite exhibiting micropores and casts similar in size and shape to microorganisms. Based on these observations, it is hypothesized that microbialite development in Pavilion Lake initiates calcite precipitation in phototrophic microbial mats, i.e., combined phototrophy and heterotrophy, followed by heterotrophic oxidation of organic matter leading to eventual carbonate infilling of the microbial-mineral matrix. In addition, an observed shift from cyanobacteria to algae with increasing lake depth suggests variability in contemporary conditions controlling microbialite growth and diagenesis. High photosynthetic growth rates at shallower depths result in significant porosity and friability due to biomass accumulation outpacing carbonate precipitation. At intermediate depths, lower light levels and slower growth rates of phototrophs lead to a greater proportion of the microbialite matrix being in-filled by carbonate. Carbonates precipitate initially within the bacteria-EPS matrix, with abundant uncalcified algae maintaining microbialite porosity. In the deepest waters, the presence of only sparse algal colonization as well as fine-grained, laminated metal-rich sediments covering microbialites suggests that present-day insolation levels are too low to support the development of photosynthetic microbial mats. As a consequence, heterotrophic carbonate precipitation has progressively in-filled these microbialite interiors to create lithified calcite fabrics that exhibit minimal porosity but preserve the casts of microorganisms as biosignatures. While the origin of microbialites in Pavilion Lake remains unknown, current observations provide valuable information in evaluating how environmental conditions influence microbialite growth in a freshwater, lacustrine environment.
Keyword Bacteria
Carbonate precipitation
Electron microscopy
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Provisional Code
Institutional Status Non-UQ

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collections: School of Earth Sciences Publications
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Citation counts: TR Web of Science Citation Count  Cited 7 times in Thomson Reuters Web of Science Article | Citations
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Created: Fri, 22 Nov 2013, 04:03:10 EST by Gordon Southam on behalf of School of Earth Sciences