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The fate of minor alkali elements in the chemical evolution of salt lakes

Author(s): Witherow Rebecca | Lyons W Berry

Journal: Saline Systems
ISSN 1746-1448

Volume: 7;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 2;
Date: 2011;
Original page

Abstract Alkaline earth elements and alkali metals (Mg, Ca, Na and K) play an important role in the geochemical evolution of saline lakes as the final brine type is defined by the abundance of these elements. The role of major ions in brine evolution has been studied in great detail, but little has been done to investigate the behaviour of minor alkali elements in these systems despite their similar chemical affinities to the major cations. We have examined three major anionic brine types, chloride, sulphate, and bicarbonate-carbonate, in fifteen lakes in North America and Antarctica to determine the geochemical behaviour of lithium, rubidium, strontium, and barium. Lithium and rubidium are largely conservative in all water types, and their concentrations are the result of long-term solute input and concentration through evaporation and/or sublimation. Strontium and barium behaviours vary with anionic brine type. Strontium can be removed in sulphate and carbonate-rich lakes by the precipitation of carbonate minerals. Barium may be removed in chloride and sulphate brines by either the precipitation of barite and perhaps biological uptake.
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