24 Nov 2022
24 Nov 2022
Status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal HESS.

Relationship of seasonal variations in drip water δ13CDIC, δ18O and trace elements with surface and physical cave conditions of La Vallina Cave, NW Spain

Oliver Kost1, Saul González-Lemos2, Laura Rodriguez-Rodriguez3, Jakub Sliwinski4, Laura Endres1, Negar Haghipour1,5, and Heather Stoll1 Oliver Kost et al.
  • 1Geological Institute, ETH Zürich, Sonneggstrasse 5, 8092 Zurich, Switzerland
  • 2ASCIEM Consulting SLP; C/ Gutiérrez Herrero 52, 33402 Avilés, Spain
  • 3Departamento Geología Universidad de Oviedo, C/ Jesús Arias de Velasco s/n, 33005 Oviedo, Spain
  • 4School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of St Andrews, Queen’s Terrace, KY16 9AJ, St Andrews, Scotland
  • 5Ion beam Physics, ETH Zürich, Otto-Stern-Weg 5, 8093 Zurich, Switzerland

Abstract. Cave monitoring studies clarify the climatic, surface vegetation, and karst processes affecting the cave system and lay the foundation to interpreting geochemical stalagmite records. Here we report monitoring of cave air, bedrock chemistry, and drip water δ13CDIC, δ18O and δD as well as 16 trace elements covering a full annual cycle spanning 16 months between November 2019 and March 2021 in La Vallina cave in the Northwest Iberian Peninsula. While decreased rainfall and increased evapotranspiration in summer months lead to a strong reduction in drip rates, there is little seasonal variation of δ18O and δD in a given drip, likely reflecting discrete moderately- to well-mixed karst water reservoirs. Small differences in δ18O and δD between drip sites are attributed to variable evaporation intensity and/or transit times. The dissolved inorganic carbon composition of drip water (δ13CDIC) is likely driven by seasonal changes in temperature controlling biological processes (vegetation and microbial soil activity) resulting in minimum δ13CDIC in summer and autumn months. Increased bedrock dissolution due to higher soil pCO2 in summer and autumn results in increased trace element concentrations of congruently dissolved elements. Cave air measurements indicate seasonal ventilation (winter) and stagnation (summer) of cave air. The opposite effects of reduced cave air pCO2, seasonally variable biological activity and increased drip rate limit the extent of seasonal variation of degassing and prior calcite precipitation (PCP) supported by trace elements (Sr/Ca-index). Estimated stalagmite growth rates using monitoring data suggest calcite precipitation is restricted to certain seasons (summer and winter) at certain locations within the cave, which has important implications on proxy interpretation of stalagmite records.

Oliver Kost et al.

Status: open (until 19 Jan 2023)

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Oliver Kost et al.

Oliver Kost et al.


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Short summary
Cave monitoring studies including cave drip water are unique opportunities to sample water which has percolated through the soil and rock. The change in drip water chemistry is resolved over the course of 16 months inferring seasonal and hydrological variations in soil and karst processes at the water-air and water-rock interface. Such data sets improve the understanding of hydrological and hydrochemical processes and ultimately advance the interpretation of geochemical stalagmite records.