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Microbial mediation as a possible mechanism for natural dolomite formation at low temperatures


DOLOMITE (CaMg(CO3)2) is a common carbonate mineral which is found in much greater abundance in ancient rocks than in modern carbonate environments. Why this is so remains a mystery. Over the past 30 years, dolomite formation has been observed in several modern environments, and various thermodynamic, kinetic and hydrological factors have been proposed to explain its formation1,2. But attempts to precipitate dolomite at low temperatures in the laboratory have been unsuccessful3,4, and the 'dolomite problem' remains a source of controversy in sedimentary geology5-7. Here we describe experiments in which a ferroan dolomite with a fairly high degree of cation order was precipitated in the presence of sulphate-reducing bacteria from the Desulfovibrio group. We propose that the direct mediation of these anaerobes can overcome the kinetic barrier to dolomite nucleation, and that they may play an active role in the formation of this mineral in natural environments.

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Vasconcelos, C., McKenzie, J., Bernasconi, S. et al. Microbial mediation as a possible mechanism for natural dolomite formation at low temperatures. Nature 377, 220–222 (1995).

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