The Geochemistry of Qatar Coastal Waters and Its Impact on Carbonate Sediment Chemistry and Early Marine Diagenesis

John Rivers, Linso Varghese, Ruqaiya Yousif, Fiona Whitaker, Sabrina Skeat, Ismael Al-Shaikh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)
260 Downloads (Pure)


The southern margin of the Arabian Gulf is a “classic” shallow-water, evaporative, carbonate-producing setting. The sediments and early diagenetic products creating the “Great Pearl Bank” of the United Arab Emirates to the east and accumulating in the coastal regions of Qatar to the west, have long been studied as modern analogs for ancient evaporitic carbonate deposits of the rock record. An integrated study measuring the chemistry of Qatar subtidal coastal waters, evaporating tidal-pond waters (to halite saturation), and meteoric pond waters was undertaken encompassing both the dry (fall) and wet (winter/spring) seasons of 2016-2017. Measured parameters included temperature, pH, dissolved oxygen, and alkalinity, as well as major ion (Na+, Ca2+, Mg2+, K+, Sr2+, Cl-, and SO42-) and stable isotopic (δ18O and δD) composition. Initial concentration by evaporation (to ~90 practical salinity units (psu)) is interpreted to drive minor diagenetic aragonite precipitation. Further evaporation initially causes minor aragonite dissolution followed by gypsum and halite precipitation. One pond showed evidence of ongoing replacive dolomitization interpreted to be driven by H2S formation and oxidation in association with microbial breakdown of organic matter. The stable isotopic composition of water in restricted ponds is a function of the degree of evaporation and dilution by meteoric waters during the wet season. Unexpectedly, beyond 350 psu, δ18O and δD continue to rise reaching values greater than 12 and 60‰, respectively. The slope of the δ18O-δD regression line exhibits no differences between dry- and wet-seasons.
During collection of coastal waters (up to ~90 psu), live Pirenella cingulata (previously Cerithidea cingulata) gastropods were collected and their shells analyzed for δ18O and δ13C, as well as Sr2+ and Ca2+ concentration. The δ18O of water and Pirenella from the same sample site exhibits a strong correlation (R2 ≥ 0.85) with a slope of ~1, suggesting that the shells may be a useful chemical archive for the isotopic composition of past oceans. The δ18O and δ13C of the shells correlate positively, likely reflecting greater sequestration of 12C into organic matter in more restrictive evaporative settings. The intercept of the δ18O and δ13C correlation shifts between dry and wet seasons, and is interpreted to reflect average seawater temperature differences during recent growth. There is also a strong correlation (R2 ≥ 0.85) between shell δ18O and measured water salinity, reflecting their mutual control by degree of evaporation. The Sr2+ content of the gastropods does not correlate well with any measured oceanographic parameter, or show evidence of systematic seasonal change.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)293-309
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Sedimentary Research
Issue number4
Early online date18 Apr 2019
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2019


  • Evaporitic
  • Carbonate
  • Isotope
  • Arabian
  • Cingulata


Dive into the research topics of 'The Geochemistry of Qatar Coastal Waters and Its Impact on Carbonate Sediment Chemistry and Early Marine Diagenesis'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this