The hydrochemical evolution of alkaline volcanic lakes: a model to understand the South Atlantic Pre-salt mineral assemblages

Ramon Mercedes-Martín*, Carlos Ayora, Jordi Tritlla, Mónica Sánchez-Román

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalReview articleAcademicpeer-review


Understand the origin of the exotic strontium-rich calcite/magnesium-rich clay/silica deposits formed during the Early Cretaceous in the South Atlantic Pre-salt lakes is challenging our ability to comprehend the chemical evolution of alkaline volcanic lakes. Here we present a new hydrochemical model based on an open basin concept, thermodynamic equilibrium, and chemical data from Lake Baringo (East African Rift) to shed light on the mechanisms facilitating carbonate-clay-silica precipitation. This model explores the effects that the leakage to adjacent waterbodies, the combination of lake evaporation and lake recharge (with river, hydrothermal and marine waters), and the bathymetric effects of the partial CO2 pressure have in the stationary precipitation of Pre-salt lacustrine mineral assemblages. Sediment thickness calculations suggest that the facies cyclicity in the Pre-salt and elsewhere are likely reflecting temporal fluctuations in the type of waters sourcing the lake, and in the degree of leakage to aquifers over multiple evaporative-freshening cycles. A plausible link between enhanced strontium uptake into Pre-salt calcite allochems and [Ca2+]/[CO3 2−] lake water stoichiometries allows to infer different scenarios for strontium-rich calcite formation with or without magnesium clays. Our conceptual model allows to quantify the role that hydrology (groundwater charge, discharge to aquifers; evaporation) exert on carbonate-clay-silica precipitation providing with a refined framework to understand the basin-scale chemical sedimentation in alkaline lakes. Furthermore, this model represents a robust template upon which critically test the superimposed kinetic factors likely attached to the genesis of specific mineral factories such as those encountered in the South Atlantic Pre-salt alkaline lakes.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102938
Pages (from-to)1-19
Number of pages19
JournalEarth-Science Reviews
Early online date27 Aug 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2019


  • Baringo
  • Calcite
  • Hydrologically open basin
  • Lacustrine
  • Magnesium-rich clay
  • Pre-salt
  • Silica


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