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Featured article from geoscience journal

Geomorphology, 2011, Vol 134, Issue 1, p. 94-101
Geomorphology and genesis of the remarkable Araras Ridge tufa deposit, Western Brazil

The Araras Ridge tufa extends for over 30 km along a c. 100 m high fault scarp, probably representing one of the most extensive tufa deposits in South America. The deposit comprises massive crystalline calcite occurring both as in situ tufa deposited along the vertical face of the scarp or as extensive debris deposits resulting from erosional disaggregation of the scarp. Although minor active tufa precipitation can be observed in streams, the deposit is not active at present, except for volumetrically limited reprecipitation of calcite as subaerial stalactites or surface flowstone. 230Th dating confirms that the bulk of the deposit is considerably old, basal ages being beyond the dating limit of the method (> 600 ka B.P.) and most ages being older than 250 ka B.P. Field and remote sensing observations demonstrate that the upper limit of the deposit parallels the fault scarp, being associated with the contact between the upper dolomitic and the lower limestone members of the Araras Formation. Carbonate beds are arranged in a regional scale synclinal structure that allows water infiltration and storage at the top of the more impure limestone, favouring discharge at the ascending limb of the syncline, close to the scarp. Genesis of the deposit thus probably involved a series of palaeo perched springs aligned along the top of the scarp. Current climatic and geomorphic conditions are not conductive to major tufa development, suggesting a distinct palaeoenvironment during former depositional phases.