Postojnska jama (Postojna Cave) is one of the most famous karst caves in the world and has been a well-known tourist attraction for nearly 200 years. It is particularly famous for its unique double-track railway. Eight heavy metals – aluminium (Al), chromium (Cr), copper (Cu), iron (Fe), lead (Pb), manganese (Mn), strontium (Sr), and zinc (Zn) – were determined in dust deposits by ICP-MS in order to assess sources of deposited particles on the cave walls. The samples were collected along the main passage in the cave, at different horizontal and vertical levels, in order to test horizontal homogeneity and study vertical distribution of the particles. It seems that the railway is an important anthropogenic source of particles, reflected in increased concentrations of Cu, Pb, and Zn, as well as of Fe and Mn in dust deposits at individual sampling sites. The maximum concentrations of Cu (217 µg g-1), Pb (4,940 µg g-1), and Zn (1,060 µg g-1) considerably exceeded their natural abundance and were explained by anthropogenic impact. The three heavy metals are markers for vehicles, engine oil and brake wear. On the other hand, mixed sources could prevail for Fe and Mn. The maximum concentrations of Fe (85,900 µg g-1) and Mn (682 µg g-1) in dust deposits were similar to the concentrations determined in fragments of the railway tracks (97,100 µg g-1 for Fe and 821 µg g-1 for Mn) and were explained by track wear and/or corrosion. In most other parts of the cave, Fe and Mn concentrations were, however, below the concentration of their natural abundance. Al, Sr, and Cr seem to be predominantly of natural origin. They generally exhibited concentrations lower than their natural abundance.
Muri, Gregor; Aleksandra Jovičić; and Andrej Mihevc.
Source assessment of deposited particles in a Slovenian show cave (Postojnska jama): evidence of long-lasting anthropogenic impact.
International Journal of Speleology,
Available at: https://scholarcommons.usf.edu/ijs/vol42/iss3/6