Petrography and geochemistry of carbonate rocks of the Paleoproterozoic Zaonega Formation, Russia: Documentation of C-13-depleted non-primary calcite

A. E. Crne*, V. A. Melezhik, A. Lepland, A. E. Fallick, A. R. Prave, A. T. Brasier

*Corresponding author for this work

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The ca. 2.0 Ga Zaonega Formation in the Onega Basin of NW Russia represents a deep-water, mixed siliciclastic-carbonate depositional system with voluminous mafic volcanism. It is typified by extremely organic-rich rocks (TOC > 40 wt%) and represents one of the earliest known episodes of oil/asphalt generation. These rocks have been inferred to archive one of the largest negative delta C-13 excursions in Earth history, one that followed and/or partially overlapped with the 2.2-2.06 Ga worldwide Lomagundi-Jatuli carbonate carbon isotopic excursion to high values and thought to be linked to the Paleoproteorozoic oxygenation of Earth's surface environments.

In order to assess the post-depositional integrity of the carbonate carbon isotopic signal (delta C-13(carb)) of the Zaonega rocks, we examined in detail the petrography and geochemistry of eight carbonate beds (0.3-0.9 m thick) from different stratigraphic levels of the formation. The range of delta C-13 values for a single bed can be as much as 17 parts per thousand, with calcite being significantly depleted in C-13 relative to co-existing dolomite; the C-13-depleted calcite likely formed by involvement of carbon derived from diagenetic and catagenetic alteration of organic matter possibly abetted by volcanic CO2. The presence of calcite +/- talc +/- phlogopite +/- actinolite indicates metamorphic reaction of dolomite with quartz, or possibly K-feldspar, in the presence of water; commonly accompanied by degassing of C-13-enriched CO2, this caused further C-13 depletion of newly formed calcite. The least altered dolomite is documented in central parts of thick dolostone beds with variably calcitized margins. This dolomite is considered as the earliest and possibly primary carbonate phase, potentially recording the delta C-13 signal of the ambient seawater. The least-altered dolomite is found in two stratigraphic intervals exhibiting delta C-13 values of +8 and +4 parts per thousand for the middle part of the formation, and delta C-13 values of -2 and -4 parts per thousand for the upper part. All other beds, with delta C-13 ranging from -19 to +3 parts per thousand, are considered to have been variably depleted in their C-13 content by post-depositional processes and therefore cannot be reliably used for assessing the carbon isotope composition of Paleoproterozoic seawater. Our results emphasize the importance of distinguishing primary versus secondary (or later) isotopic compositions in studies of carbonate rocks used for reconstruction of global environmental change. (C) 2013 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)79-93
Number of pages15
JournalPrecambrian Research
Early online date23 Oct 2013
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2014


  • paleoproterozoic
  • carbon cycle
  • non-primary calcite
  • Russia
  • great oxidation event
  • Onega Basin

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