Journal of Paleolimnology

, Volume 50, Issue 3, pp 275–291 | Cite as

Origin and significance of diagenetic concretions in sediments of Laguna Potrok Aike, southern Argentina

  • A. Vuillemin
  • D. Ariztegui
  • A. S. De Coninck
  • A. Lücke
  • C. Mayr
  • C. J. Schubert
  • The PASADO Scientific Team
Original Paper


Authigenic minerals can form in the water column and sediments of lakes, either abiotically or mediated by biological activity. Such minerals have been used as paleosalinity and paleoproductivity indicators and reflect trophic state and early diagenetic conditions. They are also considered potential indicators of past and perhaps ongoing microbial activity within sediments. Authigenic concretions, including vivianite, were described in late glacial sediments of Laguna Potrok Aike, a maar lake in southernmost Argentina. Occurrence of iron phosphate implies specific phosphorus sorption behavior and a reducing environment, with methane present. Because organic matter content in these sediments was generally low during glacial times, there must have been alternative sources of phosphorus and biogenic methane. Identifying these sources can help define past trophic state of the lake and diagenetic processes in the sediments. We used scanning electron microscopy, phosphorus speciation in bulk sediment, pore water analyses, in situ ATP measurements, microbial cell counts, and measurements of methane content and its carbon isotope composition (δ13CCH4) to identify components of and processes in the sediment. The multiple approaches indicated that volcanic materials in the catchment are important suppliers of iron, sulfur and phosphorus. These elements influence primary productivity and play a role in microbial metabolism during early diagenesis. Authigenic processes led to the formation of pyrite framboids and revealed sulfate reduction. Anaerobic oxidation of methane and shifts in pore water ion concentration indicated microbial influence with depth. This study documents the presence of active microbes within the sediments and their relationship to changing environmental conditions. It also illustrates the substantial role played by microbes in the formation of Laguna Potrok Aike concretions. Thus, authigenic minerals can be used as biosignatures in these late Pleistocene maar sediments.


Authigenic minerals Microbial reduction Methanogenesis Vivianite Framboids ICDP-project PASADO 



Funding for this study was provided by ICDP; Swiss National Science Foundation (Grant 200020-119931/2 to D. Ariztegui) and University of Geneva, Switzerland; University of Bremen and Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, Germany; Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada; University of Buenos Aires and Secretaria de Ciencia y Tecnologia of Cordoba, Argentina; and the Vetenskapsrädet of Sweden, and Eawag. P. Arpagaus and S. Becker are kindly acknowledged for the phosphorus speciation analyses and the ICP-MS pore water results, respectively. W. Klöti is acknowledged for processing with methane headspace analyses and G. Nobbe for doing the carbon isotopes on methane. We also thank A. Lisé-Pronovost for providing the picture in Fig. 2B and for first describing the presence of vivianite in the Laguna Potrok Aike sediments. We kindly acknowledge the comments and suggestions of two reviewers on an earlier version of the manuscript, and M. Brenner for his help in editing the present paper.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (JPEG 21268 kb)
10933_2013_9723_MOESM2_ESM.jpg (3.5 mb)
Supplementary material 2 (JPEG 3626 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. Vuillemin
    • 1
  • D. Ariztegui
    • 1
  • A. S. De Coninck
    • 2
  • A. Lücke
    • 3
  • C. Mayr
    • 4
    • 5
  • C. J. Schubert
    • 6
  • The PASADO Scientific Team
  1. 1.Section of Earth and Environmental SciencesUniversity of GenevaGenevaSwitzerland
  2. 2.Water Earth Environment CenterNational Institute of Scientific ResearchQuebecCanada
  3. 3.Institute of Bio- and Geosciences IBG- 3: AgrosphereResearch Center JülichJülichGermany
  4. 4.Institute of GeographyUniversity of Erlangen-NürnbergErlangenGermany
  5. 5.Geobio-Center and Department of Earth and Environmental SciencesUniversity of MunichMunichGermany
  6. 6.Department of Surface Waters-Research and ManagementEawag, Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and TechnologyKastanienbaumSwitzerland

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