The Mugnano cave is characterized by a thick clastic sedimentary fill showing a great variability of sedimentary facies, ranging from clay to coarse-grained sand deposits. This paper deals with combined sedimentological and mineralogical (XRD and SEM) studies of these sediments and bedrock insoluble residues in order to understand the origin and geological significance of cave deposits, with particular attention to red mud sediments, often considered as the residue of host rock dissolution. Three different sedimentary facies were recognized: i) YS, yellow sand with occasionally shell fragments, testifying the arrival of sediments from the surrounding landscape; ii) RS, red laminated mud; iii) GS, grey and red-grey mud and sand, dolomite-rich sediments. Furthermore, the results obtained in the present study allowed the identification of two fingerprint minerals: i) quartz, present only as traces in the limestone host-rock, and ii) dolomite, certainly related to the incomplete bedrock dissolution. Results obtained by this multidisciplinary approach testify that no one of the investigated sediments is representative of a completely autochthonous sedimentation (i.e. accumulation of insoluble residue of limestone in a cave environment). In fact, all the three sedimentary facies show a bulk composition rich in quartz, a mineral indicating an external origin for these sediments. Also the grey sediments, despite of their high content of bedrock-related dolomite, are quite rich in quartz and they testify the mixing of autochthonous and allocthonous sediments. The clay fraction of cave sediments shows strong compositional similarities with bedrock insoluble residue and consequently its analysis cannot be considered as a clear proxy for distinguishing between different parent materials. Therefore, the origin of these cave deposits is dominantly related to external sediments inputs, with terra rossa surface soils as the most probable parent material for red mud sediments.
Iacoviello, Francesco and Ivan Martini.
Provenance and geological significance of red mud and other clastic sediments of the Mugnano cave (Montagnola Senese, Italy).
International Journal of Speleology,
Available at: http://scholarcommons.usf.edu/ijs/vol41/iss2/17