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Featured article from karst/cave journal

International Journal of Speleology, 2011, Vol 40, Issue 1, p. 1-8
Comparison of 14C and U-Th ages of two Holocene phreatic overgrowths on speleothems from Mallorca (Western Mediterranean): Environmental implications
Abstract:

This investigation reports on the comparison between ICP-MS U-Th and AMS 14C ages of Phreatic Overgrowths on Speleothems (POS) from two different caves on the island of Mallorca (Spain). These speleothem encrustations form at the water table of coastal caves in a low-amplitude tide-controlled microenvironment and are used to reconstruct past sea level changes. The aim of this study is to evaluate if this particular type of speleothem is datable using 14C method and to investigate possible problems connected with the incorporation of dead carbon inherited from the dissolution of 14C-free limestone. The results show that 14C ages are strongly site dependent and appear related to local residence time of water infiltration through the soil and epikarst. When short transit time and limited interaction with soil and bedrock, as in Cova de Cala Varques A, the so-called “reservoir” effect is negligible and 14C and U-Th ages corresponds within the error range. When the residence time is longer, as in Cova des Pas de Vallgornera, 14C ages are steadily 2,300-2,400 years older than the U-Th data, as shown by the mean value (25%) of estimated percent dead carbon proportions and by higher and better correlated contents of major and trace elements in the vadose support of this speleothem encrustation. The potential use of this multi-method approach to paleoenvironmental studies is also suggested.