ALVAREZ Maria Del Pilar
Hydrochemistry, isotope studies and salt formation in saline lakes of arid regions: Extra-Andean Patagonia, Argentina
ALVAREZ, MARÍA DEL PILAR; CAROL, ELEONORA; EYMARD, INÉS; BILMES, ANDRÉS; ARIZTEGUI, DANIEL
THE SCIENCE OF TOTAL ENVIRONMENT
Año: 2022 vol. 816
The most favourable locations for the development of saline lakes are in the rain-shadow of mountain ranges, which provide large areas of precipitation catchment while the base of the basin is under arid climate and exposed to evaporation. These conditions are found in Extra-Andean Patagonia under the rain-shadow generated by the Andean cordillera. There, an endorheic basin with two shallow and saline lakes, Cari Laufquen Chica (CLC) and Cari Laufquen Grande (CLG), was studied with the aim of analysing the factors that condition the hydrochemical processes acting in the formation of evaporites associated with these environments. A monitoring network was installed and five surface and groundwater survey campaigns were carried out at different points in the basin to define groundwater flow and also to extract samples. In situ pH, electrical conductivity and temperature and laboratory physicochemical determinations of major ions and stable isotopes of the water were measured. SEM-EDS and XRD analyses of saline crusts from the edge of the lakes and adjacent sediments were carried out. The obtained results allowed identifying that CLC and CLG saline lakes have different surface water-groundwater configurations. CLC is a flow-through shallow lake, while CLG is a discharge shallow lake. The analysis of the saline precipitates and the chemical facies of the water allows identifying cycles of dissolution, evaporation and precipitation in both saline lakes. However, the different groundwater flow between the two lakes is reflected in their salinity as well as in the evolution and development of saline precipitates. CLC saline lake shows a dissolution-precipitation trend of thenardite and Ca-Mg carbonates, whereas CLG saline lake displays a trend of dissolution-precipitation of halite, thenardite and trona with strong dominance of halite. The present study identifies for the first time the main factors conditioning hydrochemical processes in these saline lakes of extra-Andean Patagonia. Our results indicate that the hydrological configuration with respect to the groundwater flow is the prevailing factor setting the hydrochemical processes that trigger the formation of salt crusts.