• Documentation of speleothems in crevice and boulder caves in the Elbe River Canyon
  • Complementary instrumental mineralogical methods applied
  • First description of coralloid silica speleothems from European sandstones
  • Three other speleothem types of contrasting geneses recognized


A variety of speleothems are present in crevice and boulder caves developed in Cretaceous sandstones of the Elbe River Canyon in northern Czech Republic. A set of complementary instrumental mineralogical methods was applied to characterize the speleothems and cave dripwaters, including X-ray powder diffraction, scanning electron microscopy and microanalysis, Raman spectroscopy and optical emission spectrometry. Four morphological types were distinguished and characterized in terms of their mineral and chemical composition: 1, rusty brown mud-dominated coatings with micro-gours, composed of a mixture of clay minerals; 2, white “chalky” coatings (moonmilk) composed of calcite with minor gypsum; 3, cauliflower-shaped coralloids composed of calcite and silica in a layered structure, with gypsum layers in apical parts; 4, knob coralloids, dark gray-brown with smooth surfaces and distinctly layered structures, composed of silica (quartz, opal-A) and Si–Al phases (kaolinite) and including phosphate-rich laminae (sasaite, vashegyite, taranakite). Only modest microbial mediation of silica precipitation was observed in cauliflower-shaped coralloids while no clear signs are present in knob coralloids despite organic enrichment in the topmost layer. White “chalky” coatings and cauliflower-shaped coralloids precipitated from weakly acidic Ca-, Mg- and sulphate-rich deeper sandstone percolates. These forms are probably still active, much like the micro-gours, produced by particulate clay deposition. Formation of knob coralloids combined clay deposition and the dominant silica precipitation from pore waters similar to the present shallow acidic percolates under changing climatic conditions, probably in the Pleistocene. It was favored by specific rock lithology (quartzose sandstone with kaolinite admixture), which explains the scarcity of similar forms in sandstone caves. Concentration of knob coralloids along protruding vertical edges and the presence of wind-guided forms suggests that silica precipitation was driven by evaporation under a constant air flow.



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