The Provenance and Geochemical Alteration of Bermudan Eolianites
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Large calcareous eolianites cover the remote island of Bermuda, accounting for more than 90% of the limestone bedrock. This study examines the sedimentology and geochemistry of these eolianites to better understand Pleistocene oceanography and the meteoric alteration of subtropical carbonate sediments. Cluster analyses reveal that the eolian carbonate sediments fall into two natural groups that represent lagoonal and reefal end members of marine sediment production. Coral fragments are uncharacteristically absent, possibly destroyed prior to their incorporation into eolian deposits by endolithic microboring organisms or broken up during transport. Sediment assemblages lead to the following interpretations of the Bermudan offshore environment: (1) the Ledge Flats reef system along the southwestern coast has been active since MIS 11, contributing coralline algal-rich sediment to the northern beaches of Sandy’s Parish and acting as an energy barrier in the south, allowing for low energy sedimentation in the quiet back- reef region; (2) on the northeastern coast, the low energy back-reef region landward of the Ledge Flats has thrived since MIS 11; (3) during MIS 5e, slightly warmer water temperatures led to the hindrance of coralline algal growth along the southern coast and in the North Lagoon. These are the first interpretations of Pleistocene marine assemblages on Bermuda. Meteoric fluids progressively transformed the pristine carbonate sediments into hardened limestones in a predictable solubility-dependent manner. The progressive alteration is coincident with: (1) divergence of δ18O and δ13C values from those similar to unaltered sediment towards those of calcrete, due to interaction with CO2-charged meteoric fluids; (2) depletion of elements with low partitioning coefficients and low meteoric concentrations, such as barium, boron, magnesium, potassium, sodium, strontium, and uranium; (3) enrichment of iron from Terra Rossa-hosted iron oxides; (4) enrichment of aluminum via detrital minerals sourced from protosol horizons; and (5) manganese concentrations that remain uncharacteristically low, owing to the lack of a consistent manganese source. Elemental correlations are useful for characterizing meteoric diagenesis, assuming the primary mineralogy is recognized, all components have been fully altered, and inter-particle cements are ubiquitous.