EGU General Assembly 2022
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Temporal and spatial variability of isotopic and hydrochemical parameters in cave drip-water feeding stalagmites: a case study from SE Slovenia

Sonja Lojen1, Tea Zuliani1, Klara Nagode1, Polona Vreča1, Tjaša Kanduč1, Jure Tičar2, Matija Zorn2, and Matej Lipar2
Sonja Lojen et al.
  • 1Department of Environmental Sciences, Jožef Stefan Institute, Ljubljana, Slovenia (
  • 2Anton Melik Geographical Institute, Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts, Ljubljana, Slovenia (

The accuracy and uncertainty of paleoclimate interpretations of geochemical and isotopic proxies from stalagmites depend critically on how accurately isotopic signals are transmitted through the vadose zone of the aquifer and how the elemental composition of the groundwater feeding the stalagmite changes as it passes through the aquifer.

Results of the first year (2021) of drip-water monitoring at 15 drip sites in the Jama v Dovčku Cave in SE Slovenia are presented. Cumulative monthly samples were analysed for δ18O of water, δ13C of dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC), elemental composition of drip-water and concentration and δ13C of CO2 in the cave atmosphere. While the seasonal variability of δ18O of precipitation in 2021 at the nearest meteorological station exceeded 10 ‰ (from –15.42 ‰ in January to –5.28 in June), the intra-annual variability of δ18O of drip-water was reduced to 0.18–1.28 ‰ and showed no correlation with the thickness of the roof, which varied between >1 and 49 m. A discernible annual cyclicity was observed at some drip sites, with the highest δ18O values determined in winter and the lowest in late summer. Dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) δ13C values exhibited a wide range (between –15.5 and –5.0 ‰), and drip sites could be divided into two groups: some drip sites exhibited large seasonal variability (up to 9.9 %) with low values in the warmer season, while the others varied within <3 ‰ with no apparent seasonality. The CO2 concentration in the cave atmosphere was significantly higher from May to October, about 4000 to 8000 ppm, while it fluctuated between 700 and 1500 ppm in the colder part of the year. The δ13C values of CO2 varied between –23.8 and –15.2 ‰ and decreased exponentially with CO2 concentration. Similar to CO2, the δ13C values of DIC also decreased exponentially with increasing DIC concentration. The δ13C value of “added” CO2 in the atmosphere obtained from the δ13C x (C/C0-1) vs. (C/C0-1) plot (Sayles &% Curry, 1988) was –23.4 ± 2.6 ‰, which is almost identical to the CO2 added to the drip-water estimated from DIC concentration and δ13C values of DIC (–23.9 ± 3.4 ‰, considering the isotopic fractionation factor between CO2(g) and HCO3- from Mook et al. 1974). Chemical analysis showed that drip sites with a large seasonality of δ13C values have significantly lower saturation indices with respect to calcite in the warmer part of the year and that earlier calcite precipitation is most likely to occur at drip sites with lower drip rates.



Mook et al., 1974, Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 22,169–186.

Sayles & Curry, 1988, Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta 52, 2963–2978.


ACKNOWLEDGEMENT: We acknowledge the financial support of Slovenian Research Agency (J1-2478).

How to cite: Lojen, S., Zuliani, T., Nagode, K., Vreča, P., Kanduč, T., Tičar, J., Zorn, M., and Lipar, M.: Temporal and spatial variability of isotopic and hydrochemical parameters in cave drip-water feeding stalagmites: a case study from SE Slovenia, EGU General Assembly 2022, Vienna, Austria, 23–27 May 2022, EGU22-5109,, 2022.