We describe a comprehensive study of carbon isotopes in several karst springs and their environs in a contemporary karst environment in the region of the Cracow-Wieluñ Upland and Western Tatra Mountains, Southern Poland. We collected samples of water, plants and carbonate deposited on aquatic plants, and obtained 13C values and 14C concentrations. We also investigated a group of the youngest calcium carbonates from caves where deposition is still being observed or ceased no more than a few hundred years ago. The determination of a 14C dilution factor (q) in these carbonates allows us to determine the “true” radiocarbon ages of old speleothems from caves in the area under investigation and enables the use of old speleothems as suitable material for extending the 14C calibration time scale, the “Absolute” age having been determined by U/Th or amino acid racemization (AAR) dating methods. Measurements of δ13C and 14C concentrations were made on dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) extracted from water samples. Calculated values of q range from 0.55 to 0.68 and δ13C values range from −10% to −13% versus VPDB with mean values equal to 0.65 and −12%, respectively. Results indicate that the dissolution process of limestone bedrock is a closed system with the dominating contributor being biogenic carbon dioxide.
Isotopic composition of carbon in contemporary plants collected at the karstic springs at 3 localities is highly diverse, with different species distinctly varying in both q and δ13C values. Extremely light values of 13C (under −40%), observed in Algae and Hyloconium splendens, are correlated with 14C concentrations that are much lower than 100 pMC. Small systematic changes of isotopic composition were found in plants of the same species collected along streams at various distances from the spring. The youngest calcium carbonates from different caves show a relatively high scatter of both δ13C values and 14C concentration. The lower reservoir effect for 14C is observed in samples with higher value of δ13C, indicating equilibrium conditions in the sedimentation of carbonate. Pazdur et al. (1995b) presented 14C dating results and paleoclimatic interpretation of 170 14C analyses of 89 speleothems from 41 caves obtained through 1994. Investigations continued until early 1997, during which time a speleothem, JWi2, was dated by 14C, U/Th and AAR dating methods, and its stable isotope composition (δ13C and δ18O) analyzed in detail (reported here). Carbon isotope analyses indicate very large differences among results obtained by U/Th, AAR, and 14C dating methods.