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Gypsum speleothems in lava tubes from Lanzarote (Canary Islands). Ion sources and pathways

AuthorsHuerta, Pedro; Martín-Pérez, Andrea; Martín-García, Rebeca ; Rodríguez-Berriguete, Álvaro ; Iglesia, A. la ; Alonso-Zarza, Ana María
KeywordsGypsum speleothems
Sulphur isotopes
Strontium isotopes
Marine spray
Lava tube
Issue Date1-Apr-2019
CitationSedimentary Geology 383: 136-147 (2019)
AbstractLava tubes from Lanzarote Island in the Canary Archipelago commonly show white speleothems that stand out from the black basaltic rock. Mineralogical analyses of the speleothems from El Covón and Chifletera lava tubes show that gypsum is the dominant mineral with minor amounts of halite. Speleothems composed of microcrystalline gypsum (up to 150 μm long) are: coatings, globules, or extensive white powder accumulations covering the tube floor. Those composed of macrocrystalline gypsum with millimetric-size tabular and lenticular crystals are: crusts and stalactites. Uranium series dating of speleothems show ages ranging from 6217 ± 1644 yr to 40,039 ± 4748 yr. δ34S and the δ18O of gypsum speleothems (δ34S is 20.97‰ V-CDT and δ18O is 9.78‰ V-SMOW) is similar to that of sulphate dissolved in seawater. 87Sr/86Sr from speleothems (0.708665–0.708976) suggests that the main source of Ca is seawater, but additional Ca contributions from aeolian dust have reduced the Sr isotope values. These data support the idea that gypsum precipitates in the lava tube by evaporation of marine spray or solutions derived from marine spray. Two probable vias for ions input into the lava tube are considered: 1) sea spray circulating through the lava tube; 2) low-frequency rain infiltration leaching the marine spray salts precipitated at the surface. The constant supply of ions from sea spray, air currents in the cave, and the fast, but partial, evaporation due to the high relative humidity in the lava tube favours accumulation of major amounts of gypsum and subordinately halite. Scarcity of precipitation in the western Canary Islands prevents dissolution of gypsum speleothems.
Publisher version (URL)https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sedgeo.2019.02.005
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