The geochemistry of carbonate diagenesis: The past, present and future

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277 Scopus citations


Stable carbon and oxygen isotopes (δ18O and δ13C values) and trace elements have been applied to the study of diagenesis of carbonate rocks for over 50 years. As valuable as these insights have been, many problems regarding the interpretation of geochemical signals within mature rocks remain. For example, while the δ18O values of carbonate rocks are dependent both upon the temperature and the δ18O value of the fluid, and additional information including trace element composition aids in interpreting such signals, direct evidence of either the temperature or the composition of the fluids is required. Such information can be obtained by analysing the δ18O value of any fluid inclusions or by measuring the temperature using a method such as the ‘clumped’ isotope technique. Such data speak directly to a large number of problems in interpreting the oxygen isotope record including the well-known tendency for δ18O values of carbonate rocks to decrease with increasing age. Unlike the δ18O, δ13C values of carbonates are considered to be less influenced by diagenesis and more a reflection of primary changes in the global carbon cycle through time. However, many studies have not sufficiently emphasized the effects of diagenesis and other post-depositional influences on the eventual carbon isotopic composition of the rock with the classic paradigm that the present is the key to the past being frequently ignored. Finally, many additional proxies are poised to contribute to the interpretation of carbonate diagenesis. Although the study of carbonate diagenesis is at an exciting point with an explosion of new proxies and methods, care should be taken to understand both old and new proxies before applying them to the ancient record.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1233-1304
Number of pages72
Issue number5
StatePublished - Aug 1 2015


  • Carbonate
  • diagenesis
  • dolomite
  • geochemistry
  • isotopes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geology
  • Stratigraphy


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