Linking the distribution of microbial deposits from the Great Salt Lake (Utah, USA) to tectonic and climatic processes
Abstract. The Great Salt Lake is a modern hypersaline lake, in which an extended modern and ancient microbial sedimentary system has developed. Detailed mapping based on aerial images and field observations can be used to identify non-random distribution patterns of microbial deposits, such as paleoshorelines associated with extensive polygons or fault-parallel alignments. Although it has been inferred that climatic changes controlling the lake level fluctuations explain the distribution of paleoshorelines and polygons, straight microbial deposit alignments may underline a normal fault system parallel to the Wasatch Front. This study is based on observations over a decimetre to kilometre spatial range, resulting in an integrated conceptual model for the controls on the distribution of the microbial deposits. The morphology, size and distribution of these deposits result mainly from environmental changes (i.e. seasonal to long-term water level fluctuations, particular geomorphological heritage, fault-induced processes, groundwater seepage) and have the potential to bring further insights into the reconstruction of paleoenvironments and paleoclimatic changes through time. New radiocarbon ages obtained on each microbial macrofabric described in this study improve the chronological framework and question the lake level variations that are commonly assumed.