Environments favoring dolomite formation at cold seeps: A case study from the Gulf of Mexico

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Dolomite rarely occurs in modern marine environments, while it is ubiquitous in the geological record. This apparent contradiction made the formation mechanism of dolomite a long-standing problem haunting sedimentologists. However, dolomite is a constituent of many modern seep carbonates, providing an opportunity to investigate the conditions favoring dolomite formation at low temperatures in the shallow subseafloor. This study reports the petrology, mineralogy, carbon and oxygen stable isotopic compositions, as well as sulfur isotopic compositions of both carbonate-associated sulfate (CAS) and chromium reducible sulfur (CRS) of a set of dolomite-bearing carbonates from two seep sites (GC140 and GB382) on the northern slope of the Gulf of Mexico. The δ C values of carbonates vary from −50.0‰ to 3.2‰ (V-PDB), confirming that carbonate minerals mostly resulted from methane oxidation. The corresponding δ O values range from 2.6‰ to 5.9‰ (V-PDB), reflecting formation close to equilibrium with seawater composition. All carbonate samples with dolomite show similar petrologies and lack skeletal remains of seep-dwelling metazoans. The homogenous texture of microcrystalline dolomite agrees with its formation in the shallow subseafloor. Dolomite-bearing samples reveal δ O /δ S slopes of 0.425 and 0.435 for the two study sites, respectively. Such high slopes are significantly different from the smaller slopes of seep carbonates consisting of calcite from Gulf of Mexico seeps, suggesting low overall sulfate reduction rates during dolomite formation. This explanation is also supported by relatively high δ S values ranging from −29.4‰ to 19.0‰ (V-CDT) and the positive correlation of these values with dolomite contents. Interestingly, an approximately stoichiometric dolomite sample yielded the most positive δ S value, indicating a formation environment typified by low replenishment of seawater sulfate at a supposedly relatively deep sulfate methane transition zone (SMTZ). Overall, these results confirm that dolomite formation is facilitated where the SMTZ is situated at relatively great depth, where sulfate reduction rates are slowed down due to the buildup of high contents of dissolved sulfide and low seawater sulfate replenishment. 13 18 18 34 34 34 CAS CAS CRS CRS

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Chemical Geology

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