Chemical weathering processes in the Great Artesian Basin: Evidence from lithium and silicon isotopes

Pogge von Strandmann, Philip A.E.; Porcelli, Don; James, Rachael H.; van Calsteren, Peter; Schaefer, Bruce; Cartwright, Ian; Reynolds, Ben C.; Burton, Kevin W.. 2014 Chemical weathering processes in the Great Artesian Basin: Evidence from lithium and silicon isotopes. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 406. 24-36. 10.1016/j.epsl.2014.09.014

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Variations in lithium and silicon isotope ratios in groundwaters of the Great Artesian Basin in Australia, and the causes of these variations, have been explored. The chemistries of Li and Si in groundwater are influenced by the dissolution of primary phases, the formation of secondary minerals, and the reaction of solid phases with dissolved constituents, while isotopic variations are generated by uptake into clays, which preferentially incorporate the light isotopes. The lithium isotopic composition (expressed as View the MathML sourceδLi7) of the groundwaters ranges from +9 to +16‰+16‰, and clearly reflects changes in aquifer conditions. Reaction-transport modelling indicates that changes in Li concentrations are principally controlled by the ratio of the weathering rate of primary minerals to the precipitation rate of secondary minerals, whereas View the MathML sourceδLi7 is affected by the extent of isotope fractionation during secondary mineral formation (which is dependent on mineralogy). The patterns of groundwater Si concentrations and View the MathML sourceδSi30 values versus flow distance suggest that Si is at steady state in the aquifer. The View the MathML sourceδSi30 value of most of the groundwater samples is close to −1‰−1‰, which is significantly lower than the View the MathML sourceδSi30 value of the reservoir rocks (∼0‰∼0‰). Since precipitation of clays preferentially removes the light Si isotopes from solution, the most plausible explanation for these low groundwater View the MathML sourceδSi30 values is addition of Si by dissolution of isotopically light secondary minerals. These data, together with model calculations, show that Li isotopes are extremely sensitive to changes in the chemical and physical conditions in the aquifer, whereas Si is not. Importantly, the model suggests that even in large aquifers with long fluid residence times, where steady-state would be expected to be reached, the concentrations and isotopic fractionation of trace elements are not controlled by Li adsorption. The model developed here provides a basis for using Li isotopes measured in groundwaters and surface waters to constrain weathering processes.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI): 10.1016/j.epsl.2014.09.014
ISSN: 0012821X
Additional Keywords: groundwater; weathering; lithium isotopes; silicon isotopes; Great Artesian Basin; Australia
Date made live: 29 Oct 2014 16:44 +0 (UTC)

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