Interstitial brines in playa sediments

Chemical Geology
By: , and 



Study of several closed drainages in the Great Basin has shown that the interstitial solutions of shallow, fine-grained playa deposits store a large quantity of dissolved solids and are often more concentrated than associated lakes and ponds, except in peripheral zones of stream or ground-water inflow. These interstitial fluids, when compared with local runoff, impoundments, or spring waters, commonly have a distinctive ionic composition which sometimes cannot be explained by either simple mixing of surface and subsurface inflow or by evaporative concentration.

At Abert Lake, Oregon, the interstitial solute concentrations increased with depth to values as much as five times greater than the lake, except where springs indicate significant ground-water input. Where Na+, Cl, and CO2 species constitute more than 90% of the solutes, Na+Cl− ratios in the lake water are lower than in interstitial solutions of bottom cores and higher than in playa fluids. At the same time, Na+K+ ratios are highest in the fluids of lake bottom muds and lowest in playa interstitials. In deeper playa profiles, interstitial Na+Cl− tended to decrease with depth (5 ft. maximum).

In the Abert Lake area, as in other parts of the western Great Basin, Na+Cl− ratios are indicative of total CO2 in solution and the effects of organic decay in surficial sediments. These ratios, coupled with data on silica and bulk density, show that higher PCO2 accompanying decay promotes silicate dissolution and hydrogen ion exchange, stripping alkalis from sediment which had preferentially adsorbed K+ when entering the lake. On subsequent loss of pore fluid in the playa regime, silica initially released to solution in the lake environment is readsorbed on dissolution products.

Study Area

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Interstitial brines in playa sediments
Series title Chemical Geology
DOI 10.1016/0009-2541(69)90049-7
Volume 4
Issue 1-2
Year Published 1969
Language English
Publisher Elsevier
Description 10 p.
First page 253
Last page 262
Country United States
State Oregon
County Lake County
Other Geospatial Abert Lake area
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