A re-examination of the mechanism of whiting events: A new role for diatoms in Fayetteville Green Lake (New York, USA)

Chloe Stanton, Ben Davis Barnes, Lee R. Kump, Julie Cosmidis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Whiting events—the episodic precipitation of fine-grained suspended calcium carbonates in the water column—have been documented across a variety of marine and lacustrine environments. Whitings likely are a major source of carbonate muds, a constituent of limestones, and important archives for geochemical proxies of Earth history. While several biological and physical mechanisms have been proposed to explain the onset of these precipitation events, no consensus has been reached thus far. Fayetteville Green Lake (New York, USA) is a meromictic lake that experiences annual whitings. Materials suspended in the water column collected through the whiting season were characterized using scanning electron microscopy and scanning transmission X-ray microscopy. Whitings in Fayetteville Green Lake are initiated in the spring within the top few meters of the water column, by precipitation of fine amorphous calcium carbonate (ACC) phases nucleating on microbial cells, as well as on abundant extracellular polymeric substances (EPS) frequently associated with centric diatoms. Whiting particles found in the summer consist of 5–7 μm calcite grains forming aggregates with diatoms and EPS. Simple calculations demonstrate that calcite particles continuously grow over several days, then sink quickly through the water column. In the late summer, partial calcium carbonate dissolution is observed deeper in the water column. Settling whiting particles, however, reach the bottom of the lake, where they form a major constituent of the sediment, along with diatom frustules. The role of diatoms and associated EPS acting as nucleation surfaces for calcium carbonates is described for the first time here as a potential mechanism participating in whitings at Fayetteville Green Lake. This mechanism may have been largely overlooked in other whiting events in modern and ancient environments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)210-228
Number of pages19
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • General Environmental Science
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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