The degree of early diagenesis in eolian dune and interdune sands at White Sands, New Mexico, is largely a function of the relationship between sand location and the water table. Most active and vegetation-stabilized dune sands are in the vadose zone, whereas interdune sands are in the capillary fringe and phreatic zones. Crystallographically controlled dissolution of the framework gypsum grains results in elongate, prismatic etch pits on sand grains from the capillary fringe and phreatic zones, whereas dissolution of sand grains in the vadose zone is slight, causing minute irregularities on grain surfaces. Vadose water percolating through the sand is manifest as meniscus layers. Consequently, dune sands in the vadose zone are cemented mainly by meniscus-shaped gypsum at grain contacts. Pendant cements formed on the lower margins of some sand grains. Cementation in the capillary fringe and the phreatic zone is more extensive than the vadose regardless of strata type. Typically, well-developed gypsum overgrowths form along the entire edge of a grain, or may encompass the entire grain. Complex diagenetic histories are suggested by multiple overgrowths and several episodes of dissolution on single grains, attesting to changing saturation levels with respect to gypsum in the shallow ground water. These changes in saturation are possibly due to periods of dilution by meteoric recharge, alternating with periods of concentration of ions and the formation of cement due to evaporation through the capillary fringe. ?? 1988.
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Early diagenesis of eolian dune and interdune sands at White Sands, New Mexico