Mass balance approaches to understanding evolution of dripwater chemistry
Abstract:Forward and inverse modelling of dripwater chemistry is a fast-developing area in speleothem science. Such approaches can incorporate theoretical, parameterized or observed relationships between forcing factors and water composition, but at the heart is mass balance: a fundamental principle that provides important constraints. Mass balance has been used in speleothem studies to trace the evolution of dissolved inorganic carbon and carbon isotopes from soil to cave, and to characterize the existence and quantification of prior calcite precipitation (PCP) based on ratios of Mg and Sr to Ca. PCP effects can dominate slow drips, whereas fast drips are more likely to show a residual variability linked to soil-biomass processes.
A possible configuration of a more complete mass balance model is illustrated in the figure. Even in humid temperate climates, evapotranspiration can be 50% of total atmospheric precipitation leading to substantially raised salt contents and there can be significant exchange with biomass. In more arid settings, at least seasonal soil storage of salts is likely. Golgotha Cave in SW Australia is in a Mediterranean climate with a strong summer soil moisture deficit. The land surface is forested leading to large ion fluxes related to vegetation. There are also periodic disturbances related to fire. Mass balance approaches have been applied to an 8-year monitoring record. Inter-annual trends of elements coprecipitated in speleothems from fast drips are predicted to be dominated by biomass effects.