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Published January 2015 | metadata_only
Journal Article

Development of microbial carbonates in the Lower Cretaceous Codó Formation (north-east Brazil): Implications for interpretation of microbialite facies associations and palaeoenvironmental conditions


The study of microbial carbonates has acquired new significance with the recognition that they retain valuable information related to biomineralization processes associated with microbial activity throughout geological time. Additionally, microbialites have a demonstrated economic potential to serve as excellent hydrocarbon reservoirs. The Lower Cretaceous Codó Formation, located in the Parnaiba Basin of north-east Brazil, comprises a unique stratigraphic sequence of up to 20 m thick, well-preserved carbonate microbialites. Deposited in a continental basin during the initial break up and separation of South America from Africa in the Early Cretaceous, this lacustrine carbonate sequence provides an excellent example to investigate the palaeoenvironmental conditions controlling microbialite facies development. Based on macroscopic and microscopic observations of outcrop and drill core samples, four microbialite facies (stromatolite, lamina, massive and spherulite) were defined and distinguished by textures and microbial fossil content. Changes in facies type are related to alternating palaeo-water depths, as reflected by 87Sr/86Sr cycles resulting from fluctuations in the sources of meteoric water. Clumped isotope measurements of stromatolitic fabrics yield precipitation palaeo-temperatures with an average value of 35°C. The δ^(18)O values of bulk carbonate (−6·8 to −1·5‰ Vienna Pee Dee Belemnite) imply precipitation from water with calculated δ^(18)O values between −1·6‰ and 1·8‰ Vienna Standard Mean Ocean Water, reflecting precipitation from variably modified meteoric waters. The δ^(13)C values of bulk carbonate (−15·5 to −7·2‰ Vienna Pee Dee Belemnite) indicate a significant input of carbon derived from aerobic or anaerobic respiration of organic matter. Combined, the data indicate that the evolution of the Codó Formation occurred in a closed lacustrine palaeoenvironment with alternating episodes of contracting and expanding lake levels, which led to the development of specific microbialite facies associations. The results provide new insights into palaeoenvironmental settings, biogenicity and early diagenetic processes involved in the formation of ancient carbonate microbialites and, by extension, improve the knowledge of the reservoir geology of correlative units in deep waters offshore Brazil.

Additional Information

© 2014 The Authors. Sedimentology © 2014 International Association of Sedimentologists. Manuscript received 23 August 2013; revision accepted 12 June 2014. We acknowledge the general support of the Swiss National Science Foundation Grant No 200020127327. This study is part of the research collaboration (PETHROS) between Petrobras and ETH Zurich. We thank Adina Payton, University of California, Santa Cruz for providing the strontium analyses, and for her interpretation of the data.

Additional details

August 22, 2023
August 22, 2023