Barium and barite dynamics in Antarctic streams

August 8, 2018
Geology: August 2018

Research Article

Saelens, Elsa, C. Gardner, K.A. Welch, S. Welch, and B.W. Lyons. 2018.  Barium and barite dynamics in Antarctic streams. Geology. 46. 10.1130/G45048.1.

Abstract

Most natural waters are undersaturated with respect to barite (BaSO4), and while much work has focused on the processes of microbially mediated barite precipitation in undersaturated solutions, particularly in marine environments, little documentation exists on the changes in barite saturation in stream waters. We examined ephemeral glacial meltwater streams in the McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica, that undergo large variations in streamflow and temperature on both a diel and seasonal basis. We measured dissolved Ba in stream water in downstream transects and on a diel cycle, total Ba in stream sediments, algal mats, and lake sediments. Ba concentrations decreased downstream in all four transects, and mineral saturation modeling indicates these waters go from supersaturated to undersaturated with respect to barite in very short distances. Ba is concentrated in stream benthic algal mats at a factor less than observed in marine systems. Both seasonal and diel changes in stream water temperature affect the solubility of barite near glacial sources. Our work shows that both changing stream temperature and the presence of algal materials likely play significant roles in controlling Ba concentrations in polar streams.