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Long-term hydrological changes in northern Iberia (4.9–0.9 ky BP) from speleothem Mg/Ca ratios and cave monitoring (Ojo Guareña Karst Complex, Spain)

Abstract

An absolute-dated stalagmite from Kaite Cave (Ojo Guareña Karst Complex, N Spain) provides a nearly continuous, high-resolution record of a proxy of regional precipitation patterns through the 4.9–0.9 ka BP interval. This record is based on the Mg/Ca ratio of the calcite and its variation through the stalagmite stratigraphy, which is interpreted to be primarily driven by changes in precipitation amount. The calibration of the proxy is supported by the present-day monitoring carried out in the cave for the last 10 years, which reveals a robust inverse relationship between the inter-annual/inter-decadal variability of rainfall and the Mg concentration of dripwaters and precipitating speleothems. The record of paleoprecipitation, based on 2400 Mg/Ca measurements, shows strong variability at inter-annual to inter-decadal scales, and more subtle but significant changes at secular to millennial scales. This long-term paleohydrological evolution outlines five successive intervals with consistent trends, which are bounded by abrupt shifts in the regional precipitation. These shifts took place at 4.65, 4.2, 2.6, and 1.3 ka BP. Significantly, the intervals of maximum precipitation of the whole record (around 4.9–4.65, 2.6–2.45, and 1.3–1.1 ka BP) can be related with episodes of minimum solar activity and correlated with cold climatic events elsewhere.

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Acknowledgments

We greatly appreciate the invitation to contribute to this special issue by the invited editors, and the comments and suggestions by the two anonymous referees. We acknowledge the contribution to research projects CGL2010-21499-BTE and CGL2013-43257-R of the Spanish R + D National Program (MINECO) and research groups “Paleoclimatology and Global Change” and “Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS)” from the UCM (Spain). We thank the facilities and permissions given by the Junta de Castilla y León (Spain) for accessing and working in the Ojo Guareña Natural Monument. The collaboration of the Grupo Espeleológico Edelweiss (Exma. Dip. Prov. Burgos) is also greatly acknowledged. Thanks are extended to S. Moncayo and S. Manzoor for their help and advice in this work.

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Correspondence to J. Martín-Chivelet.

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Cruz, J.A., Turrero, M.J., Cáceres, J.O. et al. Long-term hydrological changes in northern Iberia (4.9–0.9 ky BP) from speleothem Mg/Ca ratios and cave monitoring (Ojo Guareña Karst Complex, Spain). Environ Earth Sci 74, 7741–7753 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12665-015-4687-x

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Keywords

  • Speleothem
  • Karst
  • Paleohydrology
  • Mg/Ca
  • Late Holocene
  • Iberia