The composition of surficial salts formed near dry and drying saline lakes are partly the product of processes active in the unsaturated zone between the ground surface and the water table. These processes were investigated by determining the abundance of water-extractable solutes in sediment from the ground surface to the water table (~2.8 m) beneath Franklin Lake playa, California. Accumulation of solutes in the sediment is attributed to evaporation of aqueous solutions transported upward from the water table through the capillary fringe to an evaporation font that is currently 20-30 cm below the ground surface. Salts in the sediment from 0 to 20 cm depth are depleted in chloride and enriched in carbonate relative to deeper samples. Chloride depletion is most likely a product of selective dissolution by vertical recharge. The entire unsaturated zone contains greater amounts of carbonate than expected for evaporation of ground water and is best explained by preferential dissolution of more soluble salts in recharging precipitation but may also reflect the assimilation of CO2 as carbonate minerals precipitate. Variations in the concentrations of arsenic, molybdenum, tungsten, and uranium in the water-soluble fraction of the sediment are complex and suggest unique geochemical controls on the abundance of each element. The distribution of these trace element abundances indicates the arsenic is the element most likely to accumulate in near-surface salts.
Breit, George N.; Goldstein, Harland L.; Reynolds, Richard L.; and Yount, James C.
"Distribution of major anions and trace elements in the unsaturated zone at Franklin Lake Playa, California, USA,"
Natural Resources and Environmental Issues:
Vol. 15, Article 17.
Available at: http://digitalcommons.usu.edu/nrei/vol15/iss1/17