Sensitivity of Bunker Cave to climatic forcings highlighted through multi-annual monitoring of rain-, soil-, and dripwaters

Sylvia Riechelmann*, Andrea Schröder-Ritzrau, Christoph Spötl, Dana Felicitas Christine Riechelmann, Detlev Konrad Richter, Augusto Mangini, Norbert Frank, Sebastian F.M. Breitenbach, Adrian Immenhauser

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)
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The last two decades have seen a considerable increase in studies using speleothems as archives of past climate variability. Caves under study are now monitored for a wide range of environmental parameters and results placed in context with speleothem data. The present study investigates trends from a seven year long monitoring of Bunker Cave, northwestern Germany, in order to assess the hydraulic response and transfer time of meteoric water from the surface to the cave. Rain-, soil-, and dripwater were collected from August 2006 to August 2013 at a monthly to bimonthly resolution and their oxygen and hydrogen isotope composition was measured. Furthermore, drip rates were quantified. Due to different drip characteristics, annual mean values were calculated for the drip rates of each drip site. Correlations of the annual mean drip rate of each site with precipitation and infiltration demonstrate that the annual infiltration, and thus the annual precipitation control the inter-annual drip-rate variability for all except one site. The hydraulic response is not delayed on an annual basis. All drip sites display identical long-term trends, which suggests a draining of a common karst reservoir over these seven years of monitoring. Correlations of soil- and dripwater monthly δ18O and δD values with atmospheric temperature data reveal water transfer times of 3 months to reach a depth of 40 cm (soilwater at site BW 2) and 4 months for 70 cm depth (soilwater at site BW 1). Finally, the water reaches the cave chambers (15 to 30 m below land surface) after ca. 2.5 years. Consequently, a temporal offset of 29 to 31 months (ca. 2.5 years) between the hydraulic response time (no time lag on annual basis) and the water transfer time (time lag of 29 to 31 months) was found, which is negligible with regard to Bunker Cave speleothems because of their slow growth rates. Here, proxies recording precipitation/infiltration and temperature are registered on a decadal scale. Variations in drip rate and thus precipitation and infiltration are recorded by δ13C and Mg/Ca ratios in speleothem calcite. Speleothem δ18O values reflect both temperature and precipitation signals due to drip rate-related fractionation processes. We document that long-term patterns in temperature and precipitation are recorded in dripwater patterns of Bunker Cave and that these are linked to the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)194-205
Number of pages12
JournalChemical Geology
Early online date15 Dec 2016
Publication statusPublished - 20 Jan 2017
Externally publishedYes


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