Geochemistry and Mineralogy of Western Australian Salt Lake Sediments: Implications for Meridiani Planum on Mars

A. Ruecker, C. Schröder, J. Byrne, P. Weigold, S. Behrens, A. Kappler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Hypersaline lakes are characteristic for Western Australia and display a rare combination of geochemical and mineralogical properties that make these lakes potential analogues for past conditions on Mars. In our study, we focused on the geochemistry and mineralogy of Lake Orr and Lake Whurr. While both lakes are poor in organic carbon (<1%), the sediments' pH values differ and range from 3.8 to 4.8 in Lake Orr and from 5.4 to 6.3 in Lake Whurr sediments. Lake Whurr sediments were dominated by orange and red sediment zones in which the main Fe minerals were identified as hematite, goethite, and tentatively jarosite and pyrite. Lake Orr was dominated by brownish and blackish sediments where the main Fe minerals were goethite and another paramagnetic Fe(III)-phase that could not be identified. Furthermore, a likely secondary Fe(II)-phase was observed in Lake Orr sediments. The mineralogy of these two salt lakes in the sampling area is strongly influenced by events such as flooding, evaporation, and desiccation, processes that explain at least to some extent the observed differences between Lake Orr and Lake Whurr. The iron mineralogy of Lake Whurr sediments and the high salinity make this lake a suitable analogue for Meridiani Planum on Mars, and in particular the tentative identification of pyrite in Lake Whurr sediments has implications for the interpretation of the Fe mineralogy of Meridiani Planum sediments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)525-538
Number of pages14
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Copyright 2016, Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. 2016.


  • Hematite
  • Jarosite
  • Mars analogue
  • Pyrite
  • Salt lakes
  • Western Australia


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