Mineralogical Transformation of Bioweathered Granitic Biotite, Studied by HRTEM: Evidence for a New Pathway in Lichen Activity

Jacek Wierzchos1 and Carmen Ascaso2
1 Servei de Microscòpia Electrònica, Universitat de Lleida, Rovira Roure 44, 25196 Lleida, Spain
2 Centro de Ciencias Medioambientales, CSIC, Serrano 115 dpdo., 28006 Madrid, Spain

Abstract: The question of whether clay minerals can be biogenically transformed as a result of lichen activity at the lichen-rock interface remains unresolved. We applied several microscopical and analytical techniques—scanning electron microscopy-back-scattered electron (SEM-BSE), energy dispersive spectroscopy (EDS) and high-resolution transmission electron microscopy (HRTEM)—in an attempt to address this issue. Unaffected granitic biotite and bioweathered material from the granitic biotite and Parmelia conspersa lichen thalli interface were examined using HRTEM after ultrathin sectioning. The n-alkylammonium treatment of ultrathin sections was carried out in order to study the biogenous mineralogical transformation of the biotite. Microsamples proceeding from unaffected biotite zones demonstrated homogenous 10-Å d(001)-value biotite phase. HRTEM images of lattice fringes of samples taken from the lichen-biotite contact zone reveal large areas of both unexpanded (10-Å) and randomly and R = 3 distributed expanded (from 14- to 30-Å) layers of phyllosilicates identified as interstratified biotite-vermiculite. Results of artificial biotite weathering (replacement of K by Ca ion) also revealed the biotite-vermiculite phase formation, indicating that K release in biotite is one of the mechanisms responsible for interstratified mineral phase formation. Two parallel processes, physical exfoliation of biotite and interlayer ionic exchange of K and subsequent vermiculite formation, are the mechanisms for biotite bioweathering induced by lichens.

Key Words: Back-scattered Electrons • Biotite • Bioweathering • Granite • High-Resolution Transmission Electron Microscopy (HRTEM) • Lattice-Fringe Images • Lichens • Vermiculite

Clays and Clay Minerals; August 1998 v. 46; no. 4; p. 446-452; DOI: 10.1346/CCMN.1998.0460409
© 1998, The Clay Minerals Society
Clay Minerals Society (www.clays.org)