Low temperature stable mineral recrystallization of foraminiferal tests and implications for the fidelity of geochemical proxies

Piyali Chanda, Christopher A. Gorski, Rosie L. Oakes, Matthew S. Fantle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Fossilized foraminiferal tests are widely used as proxies to constrain paleoenvironments, including past sea surface and bottom water temperatures and the chemical composition of ancient seawater. However, relatively little is known about the extent to which calcareous foraminiferal tests exchange with seawater prior to burial. In this study, we used a 45Ca radiotracer approach to quantify the extent and rate of foraminiferal calcite–fluid exchange over a three-month period. Modern foraminiferal tests exhibited faster exchange with a 45Ca-spiked solution (2.6⋅10−4 to 2.0⋅10−5 mol/m2/d) than fossil foraminiferal tests (7.6⋅10−5 to 5.3⋅10−6 mol/m2/d) from ODP Site 807. The impact of dissolved Si on the exchange rate of modern foraminifera was minimal (2.6⋅10−4 to 9.2⋅10−6 mol/m2/d). Unlike foraminiferal calcite, inorganic calcite exchanged at remarkably slow rates (6.6⋅10−6 to 5.9⋅10−7 mol/m2/d) suggesting that biogenic calcite is more reactive than inorganic calcite. Increased Ca2+, Mg2+, and Sr2+ concentrations in fluids from parallel tracer-free reactors indicated preferential dissolution of tests, though there was no overt change in test morphology during experiments (as imaged by scanning electron microscopy and micro-CT scanning). Time-dependent box model simulations of 45Ca, as well as aqueous elemental chemistry, support the hypothesis that calcite–fluid exchange occurred via dissolution–reprecipitation of foraminiferal tests that was induced by intra-test chemical heterogeneity. The short-term exchange reactions investigated in this study are comparable to the reactions that can occur in the seawater column and at the sediment–seawater interface. This work suggests that dissolution–reprecipitation in such settings has the potential to overprint the chemistry of foraminiferal tests without overt physical alteration, which can lead to a potential bias in paleoenvironmental reconstructions. Model-based estimates suggest a maximum of 2–3 °C alteration of Mg/Ca-based temperatures over experimental time scales. Model efforts also suggest that the diagenetic trajectories in Mg/Ca–δ18O space, for instance, are impacted by the partition coefficient of Mg in calcite (λMg) as well as by the mechanism of alteration. This is demonstrated for (i) the ratio of exchange to dissolution and (ii) the relative rate of high-Mg-calcite to low-Mg-calcite reaction. We have illustrated that the mechanism of alteration, in addition to water-rock ratios, determine diagenetic trajectories. Finally, surface reaction has implications for our ability to constrain fractionation factors in experimental and natural systems. The experimental observations suggest that exchange between tests and solution is nominal over ∼100 days. Experiments aimed at deducing fractionation factors rely on the equilibration of bulk solid and fluid, since these are the readily analyzed reservoirs. We quantify the fraction of carbonate (>5%) that must react so that surface reaction does not impact the interpretation of Ca isotopic fractionation factors, and discuss the implications for more “fluid-dominated” elements such as Mg and O.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)428-440
Number of pages13
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
StatePublished - Jan 15 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Geophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)


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