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Highlights

  • Three years monitoring in Béke and Baradla Caves
  • Stable isotope and trace element measurements of drip waters and fresh calcite precipitates
  • Link between the chemistry of the drip water and the hydrological conditions
  • Sign of prior calcite precipitation
  • Link between the stable isotope composition of fresh calcite precipitates and the hydrological conditions

Abstract

In order to use speleothems in the reconstruction of past climate and environmental changes it is necessary to understand the environmental and hydrological processes that determine the physico-chemical conditions of carbonate precipitation and hence speleothem formation. Therefore, in this study an extended monitoring program was conducted in the Béke and Baradla caves located in the Aggtelek region (Northeastern Hungary). The studied caves are rich in speleothem and flowstone occurrences with great potential for paleoclimatology studies. The monitoring activity included measurements of atmospheric and cave temperatures, CO2 concentration in cave air, as well as chemical and isotopic compositions of water samples (drip water, precipitation) and in situ carbonate precipitates. The hydrogen and oxygen isotope compositions of drip waters showed no seasonal variation at any of the collection sites, indicating a well-mixed karstic aquifer. This implies that the isotopic compositions of local speleothems were able to record multiannual isotopic changes inherited from stable isotopes in the drip water. CO2 concentration showed seasonality (high values in summer and low values in winter) in both caves, likely affecting carbonate precipitation or corrosion and consequently stalagmite growth. Systematic variations among Mg/Ca and Sr/Ca, Na/Ca, and Si/Ca element ratios were detected in the drip water suggesting Prior Calcite Precipitation (PCP). As PCP is characteristic of periods of reduced infiltration during drier weather conditions, the variations in drip water chemistry and drip rates indicate that the hydrological conditions also varied significantly during the studied period. This hydrological variability appears to affect not only trace element composition but also the isotopic composition of modern carbonate precipitates. In summary, these findings imply that the speleothems from the studied caves were able to record the hydrological changes resulting from alternating wet and dry periods, and therefore the geochemical data can be used to reconstruct past climate and environmental changes.

DOI

https://doi.org/10.5038/1827-806X.47.1.2110

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License

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Additional Files

SUPPL_Tabl1.xlsx (11 kB)
Supplemental Table 1

SUPPL_Tabl2.xlsx (13 kB)
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SUPPL_Tabl3.xlsx (10 kB)
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SUPPL_Tabl9.xlsx (10 kB)
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SUPPL_Tabl10.xlsx (10 kB)
Supplemental Table 10

Suppl_Fig1.jpg (754 kB)
Supplemental Fig. 1

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