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The environmental features of the Monte Corchia cave system (Apuan Alps, central Italy) and their effects on speleothem growth

Author(s): Piccini Leonardo | Zanchetta Giovanni | Drysdale Russell | Hellstrom John | Isola Ilaria | Fallick Anthony E. | Leone Gabriello | Doveri Marco | Mussi Mario | Mantelli Francesco | Molli Giancarlo | Lotti Licia | Roncioni Adriano | Regattieri Eleonora | Meccheri Marco | Vaselli Luca

Journal: International Journal of Speleology
ISSN 0392-6672

Volume: 37;
Issue: 3;
Start page: 153;
Date: 2008;
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Keywords: speleothems | karst geomorphology | cave water chemistry | Corchia cave system | Apuan Alps | Central Italy

The Monte Corchia cave system, one of the most famous and popular caves in Italy, has in recent times been the subject of investigation on its speleothems as paleoclimate archives. This paper describes the geology, geomorphology and water chemistry of the cave system with the aim to elucidate the processes that have generated these speleothems and the properties they contain that are so useful for paleoclimatology. Some general conclusions can be drawn: i) the Corchia system is a cave developed over different altitudes during progressive uplift of the mountain chain in which it is located, probably under drainage conditions very different to those of the present. This has allowed the development of a large (ca. 60 km) and deep (-1187 m) karst system; ii) the dewatering phases have left the deepest chambers far away from clastic input and with long drip pathways; iii) the peculiar geological context has permitted the water to intercept and dissolve a significant source of U (still unknown) that facilitates radiometric dating; iv) in the last 1 Ma at least, no significant changes have occurred in the relief and in the epikarst, in the sense that speleothems have grown under very similar conditions. In addition the extremely low Ca concentration of drip waters have permitted low speleothem growth rates and, at least for the “Galleria delle Stalattiti”, the zone under paleoclimate studies,a stable plumbing system (i.e. chemistry and stable isotopes of drip waters) has produced calcite close to isotopic equilibrium.

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