Carbon and oxygen isotope study of the active water-carbonate system in a karstic Mediterranean cave: Implications for paleoclimate research in semiarid regions


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January 1996


In a semiarid climatic zone, such as the Eastern Mediterranean region, annual rainfall variations and fractionation processes in the epikarst zone exert a profound influence on the isotopic compositions of waters seeping into a cave. Consequently, the isotopic compositions of speleothems depositing from cave waters may show complex variations that need to be understood if they are to be exploited for paleoclimate studies. This is confirmed by a four-year study of the active carbonate-water system in the Soreq cave (Israel). The δ18O (SMOW) values of cave waters range from −6.3 to −3.5%.. The highest δ18O values occur at the end of the dry season in waters dripping from stalactites, and reflect evaporation processes in the epikarst zone, whereas the lowest values occur in rapidly dripping (fast-drip) waters at the peak of the rainy seasons. However, even fast-drip waters are about 1.5%. heavier than the rainfall above the cave, which is taken to reflect the mixing of fresh with residual evaporated water in the epikarst zone. δ13C (PDB) values of dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) vary from −15.6 to −5.4%., with fast-drip waters having lower δ13C values (mostly −15.6 to −12%.) and higher DIC concentrations relative to pool and stalactite-drip water. The low δ13C values of fast-drip waters and their supersaturation with respect to calcium carbonate indicates that the seepage waters have dissolved both soil-CO2 derived from overlying C3-type vegetation and marine dolomite host rock. The δ18O (PDB) values of various types of present-day low-magnesium calcite (LMC) speleothems range from −6.5 to −4.3%. and δ13C values from −13 to −5.5%. and are not correlated with speleothem type. An analysis of δ18O values of present-day calcite rafts and pool waters shows that they form in oxygen isotope equilibrium. Similarly, the measured ranges of δ13C and δ18O values for all types of present-day speleothems are consistent with equilibrium deposition at cave temperatures. The δ13C–δ18O range of contemporary LMC thus reflects the var


Isotopic Compositions, Cave Water, Carbonate-Water System

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