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© 2016 Elsevier B.V. Modern dolomite formation is conditional and restricted in specific environmental and geochemical conditions, accordingly cannot be used as the analog of ancient dolostones, which normally have platform-wide distribution. The key to understand ancient dolostone formation is to find a dolomitization process that is independent of physical/geochemical environments. It is well-known that ribbon rock (one type of calcareous rhythmites, sensu stricto referring to the alternating limestone and marlstone layers or the limestone-marl alternations) that are deposited in nearly all marine environments throughout the Earth's history, are exclusively, though normally partially, dolomitized. Thus, understanding ribbon rock dolomitization may provide valuable insight into the ‘dolomite problem’. In this study, we measured Mg isotopic compositions (δ26Mg) of ribbon rock samples collected from the Ediacaran Doushantuo Formation in South China. The marlstone layers contain higher dolomite contents and are characterized by higher δ26Mg (ranging from − 2.68‰ to − 1.84‰) than the limestone layers (varying between − 3.21‰ and − 2.53‰). A numerical model calculation indicates that clay minerals cannot provide enough Mg for dolomitization, arguing against the traditional interpretation that dolomitization is resulted from diagenetic Mg release from clays. Instead, contemporaneous seawater might provide sufficient Mg for dolomitization, because both Mg isotopes and dolomite content can be simulated by the Diffusion-Advection-Reaction model. Contemporaneous seawater dolomitization requires kinetic barrier be overcome at shallow depth of sediments. We propose the ribbon rock dolomitization is attributed to differential diagenesis of the clay-rich and clay-poor sediment layers, in which Ca2 +-Mg2 + exchange elevates porewater Mg/Ca in clay-rich layers.

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Chemical Geology

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