The paleohydrological implications of aragonite precipitation under contrasting climates in the endorheic Dead Sea and its precursors revealed by experimental investigations

Yoav Ben Dor*, Tomer Flax, Itamar Levitan, Yehouda Enzel, Achim Brauer, Yigal Erel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Carbonate minerals are common in both marine and lacustrine records, and are frequently used for paleoenvironmental reconstructions. The sedimentary sequence of the endorheic Dead Sea and its precursors contain aragonite laminae that provide a detailed sedimentary archive of climatic, hydrologic, limnologic and environmental conditions since the Pleistocene. However, the interpretation of these archives requires a detailed understanding of the constraints and mechanisms affecting CaCO3 precipitation, which are still debated. The implications of aragonite precipitation in the Dead Sea and in its late Pleistocene predecessor (Lake Lisan) were investigated in this study by mixing natural and synthetic brines with a synthetic bicarbonate solution that mimics flash-floods composition, with and without the addition of extracellular polymeric substances (EPS). Aragonite precipitation was monitored, and precipitation rates and carbonate yields were calculated and are discussed with respect to modern aquatic environments. The experimental insights on aragonite precipitation are then integrated with microfacies analyses in order to reconstruct and constrain prevailing limnogeological processes and their hydroclimatic drivers under low (interglacial) and high (glacial) lake level stands. Aragonite precipitation took place within days to several weeks after the mixing of the brines with a synthetic bicarbonate solution. Incubation time was proportional to bicarbonate concentration, and precipitation rates were partially influenced by ionic strength. Additionally, extracellular polymeric substances inhibited aragonite precipitation for several months. As for the lake's water budget, our calculations suggest that the precipitation of a typical aragonite lamina (0.5 mm thick) during high lake stand requires unreasonable freshwater inflow from either surface or subsurface sources. This discrepancy can be resolved by considering one or a combination of the following scenarios; (1) discontinuous aragonite deposition over parts of the lake floor; (2) supply of additional carbonate flux (or fluxes) to the lake from aeolian dust and the remobilization and dissolution of dust deposits at the watershed; (3) carbonate production via oxidation of organic carbon by sulfate-reducing bacteria. Altogether, it is suggested that aragonite laminae thickness cannot be directly interpreted for quantitatively reconstructing the hydrological balance for the entire lake, they may still prove valuable for identifying inherent hydroclimatic periodicities at a single site.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number120261
JournalChemical Geology
StatePublished - 20 Aug 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Elsevier B.V.


  • Aragonite
  • Dead Sea
  • Dead Sea deep drilling project
  • EPS
  • Eastern Mediterranean
  • Extracellular polymeric substances
  • Lacustrine carbonate
  • Lake Lisan
  • Levant climate
  • Paleoclimate
  • Paleohydrology
  • Paleolimnology
  • Varves


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