WHEREFORE ART THOU, LACUSTRINE SILICA? MODELING AUTHIGENIC, BIOGENIC, AND DETRITAL SILICA SIGNALS IN QUATERNARY EAST AFRICAN LAKES
For both end-members, Si/Ti changes are due to the fluxes of authigenic or biogenic silica versus clastics (Ti). Fluxes increase proportionally at the expense of the others, so Si and Ti negatively covary downsection. Major limnological changes can temporarily destroy the relationship. For example, when a closed basin lake finds an outlet and transitions toward freshwater, Si and Ti covariance initially breaks down as all three sources may be significant. As a new steady state emerges, either authigenic or biogenic flux ceases to be significant, and Si/Ti covariance resumes.
To test this idea, a 5-pt. running average of a 5-pt. running correlation coefficient between whole-rock SiO2 and TiO2 was examined from time-series geochemical XRF data (Berry, 2012) from Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania, which hosted an underfilled Plio-Pleistocene paleolake (~1.92-1.76 Ma). SiO2:TiO2 R2 values were mostly >0.50, but in places dropped to <0.01. These intervals correlate with terminations of peak aridity based on Al2O3/MgO, a proxy for saline authigenic clays. During these events, therefore the otherwise strong relationship between SiO2 and TiO2 broke down.
Data analysis is now underway from other basins in the region that are much fresher water systems. In Late Pleistocene Lake Malawi (Brown, 2011) it appears that SiO2 and TiO2 are also tightly coupled (R2>0.50), except for a number of regularly spaced events. Work is now underway to identify the nature of the intervals when the relationship broke down.
Elemental ratios such as Si/Ti are well known as important proxies of various sedimentological processes. The statistical approach used here adds value to geochemical datasets, and provides another important perspective on understanding paleoenvironmental change in lake basins.