The Choranche Cave system (Vercors, France) is an excellent locality for measuring the growth rates of large numbers soda straws. This is especially the case for the Coufin Cave, as enlargement of the cave entrance in 1875 led to a change in stalactite color from brown to white, thus providing a reliable chronomarker. The date of this brown-to-white calcite transition has been confirmed by lamina counting. We measured and georeferenced the growth-lengths of 306 soda straws in a 1m2 area of the roof of the Coufin Cave entrance chamber. Because of the very slow and sometimes inexistent water feeding of those stalactites, hydrochemistry analysis were not achieved and drop rate effect on growth were neglected; this study is based on a geomorphological and geostatistical work. By measuring a large number of soda straws in a very small area for which most of the parameters affecting stalactite growth could be considered uniform, and because flow rates are very slow (frequencies are always superior to 1 drop per half hour), we could ascribe differences in growth rates to variations in the global increase of water flow through the unsaturated matrix. Statistical and geostatistical analyses of the measurements showed that this set of similarly shaped stalactites actually consisted of three Gaussian populations with different mean growth rates: fast growth rate (FGR- mean of 0.92 mm.y-1), medium growth rate (MGR- mean of 0.47 mm.y-1) and low growth rate (LGR- 0.09 mm.y-1). Plotting the lengths and spatial distribution of the 20 longest FGR soda straws revealed that there is a rough pattern to the water flow through the cave roof. Even if no direction is statisticaly different from others, the observed directional pattern is consistent with local and regional tectonic observations. Plots of the spatial distribution of the soda straws show that FGR soda straws follow lines of regional geological stress, whereas MGR and LGR soda straws are more dispersed.
Perrette, Yves and Stéphane Jaillet.
Spatial distribution of soda straws growth rates of the Coufin Cave (Vercors, France).
International Journal of Speleology,
Available at: http://scholarcommons.usf.edu/ijs/vol39/iss2/2