Dripwater organic matter and trace element geochemistry in a semi-arid karst environment: Implications for speleothem paleoclimatology

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


  • Helen Rutlidge
  • Andy Baker
  • Christopher E. Marjo
  • Martin S. Andersen
  • Peter W. Graham
  • Gabriel C. Rau
  • Hamid Roshan
  • Monika Markowska
  • Gregoire Mariethoz
  • Catherine N. Jex

Colleges, School and Institutes

External organisations

  • Solid State and Elemental Analysis Unit
  • University of New South Wales
  • Mark Wainwright Analytical Centre
  • Connected Waters Initiative Research Centre
  • National Centre for Groundwater Research and Training
  • Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation


A series of four short-term infiltration experiments which revealed hydrochemical responses relevant to semi-arid karst environments were carried out above Cathedral Cave, Wellington, New South Wales (NSW), Australia. Dripwater samples were collected at two sites for trace element and organic matter analysis. Organic matter was characterised using fluorescence and interpreted using a PARAFAC model. Three components were isolated that represented unprocessed, soil-derived humic-like and fulvic-like material, processed humic/fulvic-like material and tryptophan-like fluorescence. Principal Component Analysis (PCA) performed on the entire dataset comprising trace element concentrations and PARAFAC scores revealed two dominant components that were identified as soil and limestone bedrock. The soil component was assigned based on significant contributions from the PARAFAC scores and additionally included Ba, Cu, Ni and Mg. The bedrock component included the expected elements of Ca, Mg and Sr as well as Si. The same elemental behaviour was observed in recent stalagmite growth collected from the site. Our experiments demonstrate that existing paleoclimate interpretations of speleothem Mg and Sr, developed in regions of positive water balance, are not readily applicable to water limited environments. We provide a new interpretation of trace element signatures unique to speleothems from water limited karst environments.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)217-230
Number of pages14
JournalGeochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jun 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas