Abstract

Five fabrics were identified in Alpine and Irish caves on the basis of morphological and microstructural characteristics, and related to growth mechanisms and growth environment. Columnar and fibrous fabrics grow when speleothems are continuously wet, and from fluids at near-equilibrium conditions (low supersaturation; SIcc < 0.35), through the screw dislocation mechanism. The highly defective microcrystalline fabrics form at the same supersaturation range as columnar fabric but under variable discharge and the presence of growth inhibitors. Dendritic fabrics, which have the highest density of crystal defects, develop in disequilibrium conditions (high supersaturation) under periodic very low-flow-regime periods that result in prolonged outgassing. Cave calcareous tufa forms in disequilibrium conditions. Only the calcite crystals of fabrics formed at low supersaturation seem to precipitate near-isotopic-equilibrium conditions.

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