Nucleation and stabilization of Eocene dolomite in evaporative lacustrine deposits from central Tibetan plateau

Yixiong Wen, Mónica Sánchez-Román, Yalin Li*, Chengshan Wang, Zhongpeng Han, Laiming Zhang, Yuan Gao

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


In past decades, the formation of dolomite at low temperature has been widely studied in both natural systems and cultured experiments, yet the mechanism(s) involved in the nucleation and precipitation of dolomite remains unresolved. Late Eocene dolomitic deposits from core in the upper Niubao Formation (Lunpola Basin, central Tibetan Plateau, China) are selected as a case study to understand the dolomitization process(es) in the geological record. Dolomite formation in Lunpola Basin can be ascribed to a different mechanism forming the large quantities of replacive dolostones in the geological record; and provides a potential fossil analogue for primary dolomite precipitation at low temperature. This analogue consists of an alternation of laminated dolomitic beds, organic-rich and siliciclastic layers; formed in response to intense evaporation interpreted to take place in a continental shallow lake environment. Mineralogical, textural and stable isotopic evaluations suggest that the dolomite from those dense-clotted laminated beds is a primary precipitate. At the nanoscale, these dolomitic beds are composed of Ca–Mg carbonate globular nanocrystals (diameter 80 to 100 nm) embedded in an organic matrix and attached to clay flakes. Micro-infrared spectroscopy analyses have revealed the presence of aliphatic compounds in the organic matrix. Microscopic and elemental compositional studies suggest that clay surfaces may facilitate the nucleation of dolomite at low temperature in the same way as the organic matrix does. The dolomite laminae show values for δ18OVPDB from −3.2 to −1.76‰ and for δ13CVPDB from −2.62 to −3.78‰. Inferred δ18OSMOW values of the lake water reveal typical evaporitic hydrological conditions. These findings provide a potential link to primary dolomite formation in ancient and modern sedimentary environments; and shed new light on the palaeoenvironmental conditions in central Tibet during the Eocene.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3333-3354
Number of pages22
Issue number6
Early online date15 Apr 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2020


  • Central Tibet
  • Mg-rich clay minerals
  • nanoglobule
  • organic matrix
  • primary dolomite


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