• Dating of caves in the Northern Calcareous Alps gives absolute ages
  • Ages can be used to retrace valley erosion rates
  • Valley erosion rates are compared with other data throughout the Alps
  • Erosion rates are slower in Mio-Pliocene and accelerate in Quaternary


Karstic caves are created by water eroding and corroding rocks that can be dissolved. Since both the spring areas of caves (normally at the valley bottom) as well as the recharge is controlled by superficial processes, the morphology of the cave bears strong links to these influences. Lowering of local base levels promotes the development of horizontal phreatic cave passages at progressively lower elevations, resulting in the formation of multi-level karst systems. Upon the next lowering of base level, these upper systems become fossilized, and sediment trapped within them may remain preserved for millions of years. Dating these sediments gives clues regarding the time when the passages were last active, and thus may yield age information for old valley floors. The present paper presents cosmogenic nuclide datings of twelve samples from eight caves in the central part of the Northern Calcareous Alps of Austria. Besides three samples that gave no results, most of the obtained ages are at the Mio-Pliocene boundary or within the Pliocene, as was expected before sampling. No multi-level caves could be sampled at different elevations, thus, the obtained valley deepening rates are averages between the age of sediment deposition and the present-day valley floor. However, the valley deepening rates of 0.12 to 0.21 km/Ma are in accordance to previous findings and corroborate a comparatively slow evolution of base level lowering in the Eastern Alps compared to the fast (Late Quaternary) evolution in the Central and Western Alps.



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