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Title: The characterisation of calcrete based on its environmental settings within selected regions of the Kalahari, Southern Africa
Author: Shaw, Alexander Iain
ISNI:       0000 0000 8757 2490
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2009
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Chemical sediments in a variety of geomorphic environments (pedogenic, fluvial, palustrine, lacustrine and pan) were investigated from seven regions (SW Kalahari, Kgalagadi, Kalkweissrand, Etosha, Linyanti, Okavango and Ngami) in the Kalahari of southern Africa. These primary and multi-phase sediments were characterised by a range of pure and intergrade silcrete, calcrete and dolocrete fabrics which contained an array of structures indicative of the crystalline and biogenic processes responsible for their precipitation, epigenesis and paragenesis. Petrography, mineralogy and isotope geochemistry provided significant insight regarding the environmental and geochemical conditions at the time of precipitation. Petrography indicated that the majority of chemical sediments were undergoing epigenetic modification as a consequence of the desiccation induced transition from phreatic to vadose diagenetic and geochemical conditions. The role of rapidly infiltrating meteoric water, associated with unstable wetting fronts, is believed to be instrumental in vadose diagenesis and the precipitation of crystalline/alpha fabric carbonate. Salinisation within the capillary fringe and deeper vadose zone is believed to be responsible for the sequence dolomitisation of crystalline calcite within mature sequences. Highly saline pan conditions instigate the precipitation of authigenic dolomite, calcite and K-feldspar within the surface sediments and authigenic silica at depth. Phreatic water beneath the islands, floodplains and fluvial systems of the Okavango, which undergoes evapotranspirational and transmission salinisation and ultimately terminal desiccation, are similarly precipitating silcrete. Pedogenic processes principally associated with C4 vegetation are responsible for the gratification of carbonate mud within desiccating lacustrine, palustrine and pan sediments. Within the thin sandy Kalahari soils, pedogenesis is limited, but biogenic/beta fabric precipitation linked to mycorrihizae and tree/shrub savanna vegetation is instrumental in the formation of hardpans and the modification of upper calcrete horizons. The dominance of a distinct assemblage (smectite/kaolinite or sepiolite/palygorskite) of authigenic clay minerals present within all the environments provides evidence of semi-arid precipitation within Mg and Ca enriched saline/rapidly evaporating water or brackish/reduced permeability environments.
Supervisor: Goudie, Andrew Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Calcretes ; Carbonate rocks ; Analysis ; Sediments (Geology) ; Kalahari Desert