Influence of microbial photosynthesis on tufa stromatolite formation and ambient water chemistry, SW Japan

Fumito Shiraishi, Tomoyo Okumura, Yoshio Takahashi, Akihiro Kano

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37 Citations (Scopus)


Photosynthetic influences on tufa stromatolite formation and ambient water chemistry were investigated at two well-studied streams depositing tufa in Southwestern Japan (Shirokawa and Shimokuraida). The tufa stromatolites in both streams are composed of fine-grained calcite crystals showing annual lamination, and colonized by a number of filamentous cyanobacteria as well as non-phototrophic bacteria. Microelectrode measurements of pH, O2, and Ca2+ near the stromatolite surface (the diffusive boundary layer; DBL) revealed that the investigated tufa stromatolites are formed by photosynthesis-induced CaCO3 precipitation (PCP): cyanobacterial photosynthesis induces calcite precipitation under light conditions, while respiration of cyanobacteria and non-phototrophic bacteria inhibits precipitation in the dark. The bulk water chemistry at the lower sites of the investigated streams showed the daytime decreases of Ca2+ concentration and alkalinity that was expected for significant influence of PCP, while the other expected change, increased pH, was not observed. In order to examine this discrepancy, a novel approach using semi-in situ microelectrode measurements was applied to perform precise quantitative calculations. The calculation results demonstrated that the observed Ca2+ concentration and alkalinity decreases were caused by PCP, and that the concomitant pH increase was expected to be under the detection level of a conventional pH meter. Although the amount of PCP is supposed to be significantly affected by light intensity, observations in Shimokuraida revealed that the amount of PCP on cloudy day nonetheless accounted for about 80% of that on sunny day. Despite the significant role of PCP for tufa stromatolite formation, PCP accounted for only about 10% of the precipitated calcite in the investigated streams, which indicates that tufa stromatolites, the characteristic deposits in the streams, are responsible for only a small portion of calcite precipitation, and the rest is considered to precipitate inorganically at biofilm-free substrates.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5289-5304
Number of pages16
JournalGeochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
Issue number18
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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