Caco<inf>3</inf> precipitation in multilayered cyanobacterial mats: Clues to explain the alternation of micrite and sparite layers in calcareous stromatolites

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Life, 2015, 5 (1), pp. 744 - 769
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© 2015 by the authors; licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. Marine cyanobacterial mats were cultured on coastal sediments (Nivå Bay, Øresund, Denmark) for over three years in a closed system. Carbonate particles formed in two different modes in the mat: (i) through precipitation of submicrometer-sized grains of Mg calcite within the mucilage near the base of living cyanobacterial layers, and (ii) through precipitation of a variety of mixed Mg calcite/aragonite morphs in layers of degraded cyanobacteria dominated by purple sulfur bacteria. The 13C values were about 2‰ heavier in carbonates from the living cyanobacterial zones as compared to those generated in the purple bacterial zones. Saturation indices calculated with respect to calcite, aragonite, and dolomite inside the mats showed extremely high values across the mat profile. Such high values were caused by high pH and high carbonate alkalinity generated within the mats in conjunction with increased concentrations of calcium and magnesium that were presumably stored in sheaths and extracellular polymer substances (EPS) of the living cyanobacteria and liberated during their post-mortem degradation. The generated CaCO3 morphs were highly similar to morphs reported from heterotrophic bacterial cultures, and from bacterially decomposed cyanobacterial biomass emplaced in Ca-rich media. They are also similar to CaCO3 morphs precipitated from purely inorganic solutions. No metabolically (enzymatically) controlled formation of particular CaCO3 morphs by heterotrophic bacteria was observed in the studied mats. The apparent alternation of in vivo and post-mortem generated calcareous layers in the studied cyanobacterial mats may explain the alternation of fine-grained (micritic) and coarse-grained (sparitic) laminae observed in modern and fossil calcareous cyanobacterial microbialites as the result of a probably similar multilayered mat organization.
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