Isotopic Climate Record in a Holocene Stalagmite from Ursilor Cave (Romania)

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speleothem, U-Th TIMS, Holocene, isotope, crystal fabric, palaeoclimate, Romania

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The PU-2 stalagmite from Ursilor Cave provides the first dated Romanian isotope record for the Holocene. The overall growth rate of the speleothem was 3.5 cm kyr−1, corresponding to a temporal resolution of 142 y between each isotope analysis. The ‘Hendy’ tests indicate that isotopic equilibrium conditions occurred during the formation of PU-2, and hence that it is suitable for palaeoclimatic studies. The relationship between δ18O and temperature was found to be positive. This can be interpreted either as rain-out with distance from the west-northwest ocean source of evaporation or shifts in air mass source with changing North Atlantic Oscillation indices. Applying five U–Th thermal ionisation mass spectrometric (TIMS) dates to a 17.5 cm isotope profile (δ18O and δ13C) along the stalagmite growth axis enabled a tentative interpretation of the palaeoclimate signal over the past 7.1 kyr. Spikes of depleted isotopic δ18O values are centred near ca. 7, ca. 5.2 and ca. 4 ka, reflecting cool conditions. The record shows two warm intervals between ca. 3.8 and ca. 3.2 ka (the maximum warmth) and from ca. 2 to ca. 1.4 ka, when the δ18O values were less negative than present. The ‘Holocene Climate Optimum’ spanning the time interval from ca. 6.8 to ca. 4.4 ka is not well expressed in the PU-2 stalagmite. Individual spikes of lighter δ13C are interpreted as indicative of periods of heavy rainfall, at ca. 7, ca. 5.5, and ca. 3.5 ka. The overall trend to lighter δ13C in the PU-2 stalagmite may reflect a gradual decrease in water–rock interaction. The results demonstrate that the effect of North Atlantic oceanic changes extended to the investigated area. Nevertheless, some differences in temporal correlation and intensity of stable isotopic response to these climatic events have been found, but the exact nature of these differences and the underlying mechanism is yet to be determined.

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Journal of Quaternary Science, v. 17, issue 4, p. 319-327