Microstructure and palygorskite neoformation in pedogenic calcretes of central Morocco uri icon


  • The aim of this research was the micromorphological and mineralogical characterization of calcrete outcrops located in central Morocco, with particular focus on microstructure development and palygorskite formation processes. Two study sites in the Al Haouz Plain (ca 30 km west to Marrakech city) were identified, in an area dominated by Quaternary sedimentary formations including layers cemented by carbonate and widespread calcareous crusts at the surface. The calcrete samples were examined by means of polarizing microscopy from thin sections, scanning electron microscopy / energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (SEM/EDX) from undisturbed samples, and X-ray diffraction (XRD) methods. The matrix of the calcrete material cementing the schist fragments composed of abundant calcite was associated mainly with palygorskite, quartz, and to a lesser extent illite/mica, feldspar, and chlorite. SEM observations indicated that palygorskite mainly occurred as fibres, fibre bundles and networks mainly grown on and/or enclosing calcite rhombohedrons. The EDX spectra of the palygorskite fibres exhibited strong silicon (Si) peaks followed by Al, Mg and Fe peaks. The EDX analysis of calcite rhombohedric crystals exhibited a strong Ca peak, followed by weak peaks of Si, Mg, Al and Fe possibly due to nearby or overlapped palygorskite crystals. One main palygorskite neoformation process was described. Palygorskite was authigenically formed (neoformed) during and after precipitation of calcite from percolating soil solutions in a near-surface setting. Peculiar sub-rounded microstructural units, here designated as pedogenic ooids/pisoids (according to the size), were determined in the matrix of the studied calcretes, associated to pendants and clay-rich rims surrounding them.

publication date

  • 2018
  • 2017