Comparison of speleothem fabrics and microstratigraphic stacking patterns in calcite stalagmites as indicators of paleoenvironmental change


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July 2016


In the necessary task of obtaining high-resolution paleoclimate series from speleothems, the characterization of their internal microstratigraphy is a useful tool for: a) improving geochronology, and b) reaching a more complete knowledge of the speleothem formation and evolution through time and thus obtaining additional paleoenvironmental information. However, the development of standardized methodologies for microstratigraphic characterization is a pending task. In this paper, two different approaches allow construction of microstratigraphic logs for three stalagmites retrieved from two different caves. The logs correspond to vertical variations in speleothem fabrics and in microstratigraphic stacking patterns. The “fabrics logs” essentially provide information about the drip rate (sometimes used as a precipitation proxy) and the regularity or irregularity of each drip in the short-term. The “microstratigraphic stacking patterns logs” can be interpreted to obtain information about the changes in drip rates in the mid- and long-term. The results show a broad correlation between both kinds of logs that supports their validity as paleoenvironmental proxies. Fabrics formed under relatively constant and regular drips (columnar compact, open and elongated) usually constitute aggradational or progradational microstratigraphic stacking patterns. On the other hand, retractional stacking patterns are usually related with fabrics precipitated under more irregular drips (dendritic and columnar microcrystalline). However, this relation is not rigid and the information obtained from the logs is not equivalent, but complementary. The combination of both logs allows reconstruction of the hydrological history for each drip site. As all the obtained information derives directly from the drip conditions, drip effects result to be very important and can, in some cases, overwhelm the paleoclimate information recorded in each stalagmite.


Speleothem, Cave, Karst, Paleoclimate, Microstratigraphic Log, Holocene

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Quaternary International, Vol. 407, no. A (2016-07-02).