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Scientists believe that the barite mined in El Portal was derived via diagenesis of witherite (BaCO3), which, in its turn, was produced via the diagenesis of limestone (CaCO3). Barium solutions in the underlying granite bubbled up into the limestone, precipitating the slow transformation of the rock.  

limestone
witherite
barite

The calcium carbonate tufas at Mono Lake expand via another diagenetic process: the fossilisation of the organic and inorganic matter that they incorporate. Again: pencils, beer cans, mosses, algae, bones. Fossils of mosses and algae produce a record of climate change, as each species is unique to very specific climatic conditions. 

When climate change hits its stride as a crisis in Southern California, it is likely that Los Angeles will divert more water from the Mono Lake basin, sacrificing the birds, the brine shirmp, the alkali flies. And Mono Lake will become, eventually, an alkali playa.

The tufas will be colonized, and then subsumed, by lichens, the earliest and the final inhabitants of rocks. Lichen is comprised of a fungus and an algae or cyanobacteria. The fungal component of lichen performs diagenetic processes on whatever substrate the lichen inhabits. 

In one study of lichenous fungi and limestone, all calcite crystals were replaced by biominerals; the rhombic shape of the original crystals was preserved. Through diagenesis, the lichens will fossilise the tufa. The flat surface of the Mono Lake playa will be populated by these fossilised pillars, which will continue to grow only internally, chemically. Easily, from a distance, one could mistake them for pillars of salt. 

Drawing closer, it would become clear that the rock was host to living lichen, and that the forms visible within it, maybe a nest with two unhatched eggs, existed in another reality, before they were taken into the tufa and transformed, and then transformed again. 

In extremely rare cases, the fossilised eggs might contain bird embryos. But most of the time, they will be solid rock, perhaps showing some trace of the fluid that once filled the egg, a small pool that did not escape with the rest of the liquid through the crack in the shell. 

M.I

M.I/mi1glissé

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