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Scientific Reports




Inorganic precipitation of aragonite is a common process within tropical carbonate environments. Across the Northwest Shelf of Australia (NWS) such precipitates were abundant in the late Pleistocene, whereas present-day sedimentation is dominated by calcitic bioclasts. This study presents sedimentological and geochemical analyses of core data retrieved from the upper 13 meters of IODP Site U1461 that provide a high-resolution sedimentary record of the last ~15 thousand years. Sediments that formed from 15 to 10.1 ka BP are aragonitic and characterised by small needles (<5 >µm) and ooids. XRF elemental proxy data indicate that these sediments developed under arid conditions in which high marine alkalinity favoured carbonate precipitation. A pronounced change of XRF-proxy values around 10.1 ka BP indicates a transition to a more humid climate and elevated fluvial runoff. This climatic change coincides with a shelf-wide cessation of inorganic aragonite production and a switch to carbonate sedimentation dominated by skeletal calcite. High ocean water alkalinity due to an arid climate and low fluvial runoff therefore seems to be a prerequisite for the formation of shallow water aragonite-rich sediments on the NWS. These conditions are not necessarily synchronous to interglacial periods, but are linked to the regional hydrological cycle. © 2019, The Author(s).


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