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Title: Enhanced terrestrial Fe(II) mobilization identified through a novel mechanism of microbially driven cave formation in Fe(III)-rich rocks

Most cave formation requires mass separation from a host rock in a process that operates outward from permeable pathways to create the cave void. Given the poor solubility of Fe(III) phases, such processes are insufficient to account for the significant iron formation caves (IFCs) seen in Brazilian banded iron formations (BIF) and associated rock. In this study we demonstrate that microbially-mediated reductive Fe(III) dissolution is solubilizing the poorly soluble Fe(III) phases to soluble Fe(II) in the anoxic zone behind cave walls. The resultant Fe(III)-depleted material (termedsub muros) is unable to maintain the structural integrity of the walls and repeated rounds of wall collapse lead to formation of the cave void in an active, measurable process. This mechanism may move significant quantities of Fe(II) into ground water and may help to explain the mechanism of BIF dissolution and REE enrichment in the generation of canga. The role of Fe(III) reducing microorganism and mass separation behind the walls (outward-in, rather than inward-out) is not only a novel mechanism of speleogenesis, but it also may identify a previously overlooked source of continental Fe that may have contributed to Archaean BIF formation.

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Nature Publishing Group
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Scientific Reports
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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