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Comparison of the luminescence intensity of speleothem feed waters from six cave systems

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Andrew Baker


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Feed waters that are associated with active stalagmite and flowstone deposition in six cave systems were sampled over individual hydrological years for their luminescence intensity. Luminescence intensity of cave waters has been demonstrated to derive from luminescent organic acids that are transported from the overlying soil. Sample sites include Sharkham Point Adit, Devon, a coastal site where luminescence may be quenched by marine derived salts; Lower Cave, Bristol; Brown's Folly Mine, Wiltshire; Grotte de Villars, Dordogne; Uamh an Tartair, Assynt and Stump Cross Caverns, Yorkshire. Comparison of the mean annual luminescence intensity within sites demonstrates that flowstone-depositing waters have higher luminescence intensity than stalagmite waters. Inter-site comparison demonstrates increasing luminescence intensity in the order Sharkham Point Adit < Lower Cave < Uamh an Tartair < Stump Cross Caverns < Brown's Folly Mine ≪ Grotte de Villars. Villars has statistically higher luminescence intensity than all the other sites at a 95% confidence level. A higher flowstone water luminescence intensity than that of stalagmites agrees with results previously observed and may be explained by: (1) a greater transport capacity at higher mean discharge; (2) short groundwater residence time, which decreases the potential for absorption of organic acids within the karst aquifer; (3) possible wider fissures that optimise the transport of high molecular weight organic acids. The significantly higher luminescence intensity observed at Grotte de Villars correlates with the high dissolved calcium concentration in the dripwaters at this site, and high stalagmite growth rate. It is suggested that further investigations from a range of sites with differing dripwater calcium and soil CO2 productivity would discover if changes in luminescence intensity correlate with soil productivity, and hence can be used as a palaeoenvironmental proxy when preserved in speleothems. © British Cave Research Association, 2000.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Baker A

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Cave and Karst Science

Year: 2000

Volume: 27

Issue: 3

Pages: 125-126

ISSN (print): 1356-191X

ISSN (electronic):

Publisher: British Cave Research Association