Effect of sulfate on magnesium incorporation in low-magnesium calcite

Katja E. Goetschl*, Bettina Purgstaller, Martin Dietzel, Vasileios Mavromatis

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The incorporation of magnesium and sulfate in calcite is frequently used to characterize and trace the environmental conditions occurring during carbonate mineral formation. Although both ions are simultaneously incorporated in the growing calcite, the effect of sulfate on magnesium incorporation in calcite is still under-explored. In this study, we examine the Mg incorporation in low-Mg calcite as a function of growth rate at 25 °C and 1 bar pCO2 in the presence and absence of aqueous sulfate. The obtained results suggest that high calcite growth rates induce a significant increase in the partitioning coefficient of Mg between the precipitated low-Mg calcite and aqueous solution (i.e. DMg= [Formula presented] ). Obtained DMg values exhibit similar dependence to mineral growth rate for experiments performed in the presence and absence of sulfate, however a systematic shift to lower DMg values is observed for calcites formed in the presence of sulfate. The lower DMg values of calcites formed in sulfate-bearing solutions are attributed to the incorporated SO4 ions which provoke expansion in the unit cell along the c-axis of the newly formed calcite. A larger unit cell is unfavorable for the substitution of Ca by smaller Mg ions in calcite. The coupled effect of (i) sulfate uptake during calcite growth and (ii) precipitation rate on DMg can be expressed by the equation DMg=0.03726-0.02345×-logrp-7-XSO4×0.004607+0.002109×-logrp-7; (−8 ≤ log(rp) ≤ −7; 0 ≤ Xso4 ≤ 2.6; T = 25 °C) and is valid for 0.01 ≤ DMg ≤ 0.04. In analogy to Mg also SO4 ions are inhibiting calcite growth, thus promoting the formation of aragonite due to adsorption phenomena and blocking of calcite surface sites. These results improve our understanding on physicochemical parameters controlling CaCO3 composition and mineral polymorphism and are discussed in their relevance for the use of magnesium and sulfate environmental proxies in natural surroundings.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)505-519
Number of pages15
JournalGeochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
Publication statusPublished - 15 Nov 2019


  • Low-Mg calcite
  • Mg partitioning
  • Mineral growth rate
  • Sulfate incorporation
  • Unit cell expansion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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