Stylolites and stylolite networks as primary controls on the geometry and distribution of carbonate diagenetic alterations

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Enrique Gomez-Rivas , Juan Diego Martín-Martín , Paul D. Bons , Daniel Koehn , Albert Griera , Anna Travé , Maria-Gema Llorens , Elliot Humphrey, Joyce Neilson 


There is an ongoing debate on whether stylolites act as barriers or conduits for fluids, or even play no role in terms of fluid transport. This problem can be tackled by examining the spatial and temporal relationships between stylolites and other diagenetic products at multiple scales. Using the well-known Lower Cretaceous Benicàssim case study (Maestrat Basin, E Spain), we provide new field and petrographic observations of how bedding-parallel stylolites can influence different diagenetic processes during the geological evolution of a basin. The results reveal that stylolites can serve as baffles or inhibitors for different carbonate diagenetic reactions, and act as fronts for dolomitization, dolomite recrystallization and calcitization processes. Anastomosing stylolites, which pre-date burial dolomitization, likely acted as a collective baffle for dolomitization fluids in the study area, resulting in stratabound replacement geometries at the metre-to-kilometre scale. The dolomitization front weaves up and down following consecutive anastomosing stylolites, which are typical of mud-dominated facies that characterize limestone-dolostone transition zones. Contrarily, dolostone bodies tend to correspond to grain-dominated facies characterized by parallel (non-anastomosing) stylolites. The same stylolites subsequently acted as fluid flow conduits and barriers again when the burial and stress conditions changed. Stylolites within dolostones close to faults are found corroded and filled with saddle dolomite riming the stylolite pore, and high-temperature blocky calcite cements filling the remaining porosity. The fluids responsible for these reactions were likely released from below at high pressure, causing hydraulic brecciation, and were channelised through stylolites, which acted as fluid conduits. Stylolites are also found acting as baffles for subsequent calcitization reactions and occasionally appear filled with iron oxides released by calcitization. This example demonstrates how the same type of stylolites can act as barriers/inhibitors and/or conduits for different types of diagenetic reactions through time, and how important it is to consider their collective role when they form networks.



Earth Sciences, Geology, Sedimentology, Stratigraphy, Tectonics and Structure


dolomitization, fluid flow, barrier, diagenesis, stylolite, conduit, baffle


Published: 2021-07-18 08:01

Last Updated: 2021-07-19 14:12

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CC BY Attribution 4.0 International

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Data Availability (Reason not available):
The article is based on field and petrographic observations and all the data is contained within it.

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