New Comprehensive System to Construct Speleothem Fabrics Time Series

Wednesday, 17 December 2014
Silvia Frisia, University of Newcastle, Callaghan, NSW, Australia and Andrea Borsato, University of Newcastle, Callaghan, Australia
Speleothem fabrics record processes that influence the way geochemical proxy data are encoded in speleothems, yet, there has been little advance in the use of fabrics as a complement to palaeo-proxy datasets since the fabric classification proposed by us in 2010. The systematic use of fabrics documentation in speleothem science has been limited by the absence of a comprehensive, numerical system that would allow constructing fabric time series comparable with the widely used geochemical time series. Documentation of speleothem fabrics is fundamental for a robust interpretation of speleothem time series where stable isotopes and trace elements are used as proxy, because fabrics highlight depositional as well as post-depositional processes whose understanding complements reconstructions based on geochemistry.

Here we propose a logic system allowing transformation of microscope observations into numbers tied to acronyms that specify each fabric type and subtype. The rationale for ascribing progressive numbers to fabrics is based on the most up-to-date growth models. In this conceptual framework, the progression reflects hydrological conditions, bio-mediation and diagenesis. The lowest numbers are given to calcite fabrics formed at relatively constant drip rates: the columnar types (compact and open). Higher numbers are ascribed to columnar fabrics characterized by presence of impurities that cause elongation or lattice distortion (Elongated, Fascicular Optic and Radiaxial calcites). The sequence progresses with the dendritic fabrics, followed by micrite (M), which has been observed in association with microbial films. Microsparite (Ms) and mosaic calcite (Mc) have the highest numbers, being considered as diagenetic. Acronyms and subfixes are intended to become universally acknowledged. Thus, fabrics can be plotted vs. age to yield time series, where numbers are replaced by the acronyms. This will result in a visual representation of climate- or environmental-related parameters underpinning speleothem crystal growth. The Fabric log thus becomes a useful tool providing robustness to the geochemical data or test the overall utility of the speleothem record.