We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Otherwise, we'll assume you're OK to continue.

Department of Earth Sciences

Staff Profile

Publication details

Baldini, J.U.L., Baldini, L.M., McDermott, F. & Clipson, N. (2006). Carbon dioxide sources, sinks, and spatial variability in shallow temperate zone caves: Evidence from Ballynamintra Cave, Ireland. Journal Of Cave And Karst Studies 68(1): 4-11.

Author(s) from Durham


Carbon dioxide concentrations in Ballynamintra Cave, S. Ireland, generally increase with distance from the entrance, but this trend is non-linear because physical constrictions and slope changes compartmentalize the cave into zones with distinct PCO2 signatures. In this cave, CO2 originates from the soil and enters the cave by degassing from dripwater and by seeping through fractures, and is then transported throughout the cave by advection. Elevated concentrations in roof fissures, joints, and adjacent to walls suggest that these locations shelter CO2 gas from advection and permit local accumulation. CO2 enrichment was noted over a sediment accumulation, suggesting that microbial oxidation of organic compounds in the sediment provided an additional CO2 source distinct from the soil zone above the cave. Advection driven by external barometric pressure variations caused ventilation, which is the principal CO2 sink. The data presented here underscore the need for high resolution data to adequately characterize cave air PCO2 variability.


Bakalowicz, M.J., Ford, D.C., Miller, T.E., Palmer, A N., and Palmer, M.V.,
1987, Thermal genesis of dissolution caves in the Black Hills, South
Dakota: Geological Society of America Bulletin, v. 99, no. 6, p. 729–738.
Baker, A., Barnes, W.L., and Smart, P.L., 1997, Variations in the discharge and
organic matter content of stalagmite drip waters in Lower Cave, Bristol:
Hydrological Processes, v. 11, p. 1541–1555.
Baldini, J.U.L., McDermott, F., Baker, A., Railsback, L.B., Baldini, L.M., and
Mattey, D.P., 2005, Vegetation effects on stalagmite growth rate and isotopic
content: Earth and Planetary Science Letters, v. 240, no. 2, p.
Baldini, J.U.L., McDermott, F., and Fairchild, I.J., 2002, Structure of the 8200-
year cold event revealed by a speleothem trace element record: Science,
v. 296, no. 5576, p. 2203–2206.
Bourges, F., Mangin, A., and d’Hulst, D., 2001, Le gaz carbonique dans la
dynamique de l’atmosphère des cavités karstique: l’exemple de l’Aven
d’Orgnac (Ardèche): Earth and Planetary Sciences, v. 333, p. 685–692.
Carrasco, F., Vadillo, I., Linan, C., Andreo, B., and Duran, J.J., 2002, Control
of environmental parameters for management and conservation of Nerja
Cave (Malaga, Spain): Acta Carsologica, v. 9, p. 105–122.
Cigna, A.A., and Forti, P., 1986, The speleogenetic role of airflow caused by
convection: International Journal of Speleology, v. 15, p. 41–52.
De Freitas, C.R., and Schmekal, A., 2003, Condensation as a microclimate
process: Measurement, numerical simulation and prediction in the
Glowworm Cave, New Zealand: International Journal of Climatology, v.
23, no. 5, p. 557–575.
Dublyanski, V.N., and Dublyanski, Y.V., 1998, The problem of condensation
in karst studies: Journal of Cave and Karst Studies, v. 60, no. 1, p. 3–17.
Ek, C., and Gewelt, M., 1985, Carbon-dioxide in cave atmospheres — New
results in Belgium and comparison with some other countries: Earth
Surface Processes and Landforms, v. 10, no. 2, p. 173–187.
Ek, C., Gewelt, M., and Shouyue, Z., 1989, Carbon dioxide content of cave
sediments and cave air in China. Preliminary results: in Proceedings of the
International Meeting on Karst Phenomena of the Area of Lichuan, China,
July 22-24, p. 5.
Genty, D., Baker, A., and Vokal, B., 2001, Intra- and inter-annual growth rate
of modern stalagmites: Chemical Geology, v. 176, p. 191–212.
Genty, D., Blamart, D., Ouahdi, R., Gilmour, M., Baker, A., Jouzel, J., and
Van-Exter, S., 2003, Precise dating of Dansgaard-Oeschger climate oscillations
in western Europe from stalagmite data: Nature, v. 421, p.
Genty, D., and Quinif, Y., 1996, Annually laminated sequences in the internal
structure of some Belgian speleothems: Journal of Sedimentary Research,
v. 66, p. 275–288.
Gewelt, M., and Ek, C., 1983, L’Evolution saissonièrre de la teneur en CO2 de
l’air de deux grottes Belges: Ste-Ann et Brialmont, Tilff, in Patterson, K.,
and Sweeting, M. M., eds., New Directions in Karst: Norwich, Geo
Books, p. 613.
James, J.M., 1977, Carbon dioxide in the cave atmosphere: Transcript of the
British Cave Rescue Association, v. 4, no. 4, p. 417–429.
Jameson, R.A., 1991, Features of condensation corrosion in caves of the
Greenbriar karst, West Virginia: National Speleological Society Bulletin,
v. 53, p. 44.
Kaufmann, G., 2003, Stalagmite growth and palaeo-climate: the numerical
perspective: Earth and Planetary Science Letters, v. 214, p. 251–266.
Kaufmann, G., and Dreybrodt, W., 2004, Stalagmite growth and palaeo-climate:
an inverse approach: Earth and Planetary Science Letters, v. 224,
no. 3–4, p. 529–545.
Miotke, F.-D., 1974, Carbon dioxide and the soil atmosphere: Abhandlungen
zur Karst-Und Höhlenkunde, Reihe A, Speläologie, v. 9, p. 1–49.
Palmer, A.N., 1986, Gypsum replacement of limestone by alternating open and
closed systems in the vadose zone, Mammoth Cave, Kentucky, Cave
Research Foundation Annual Report, 27–28 p.
Pulido-Bosch, A., Martin-Rosales, W., Lopez-Chicano, M., Rodriguez-
Navarro, C.M., and Vallejos, A., 1997, Human impact in a tourist karstic
cave (Aracena, Spain): Environmental Geology, v. 31, no. 3–4, p.
Railsback, L.B., Brook, G.A., Chen, J., Kalin, R., and Fleisher, C., 1994,
Environmental controls on the petrology of a late Holocene speleothem
from Botswana with annual layers of aragonite and calcite: Journal of
Sedimentary Research, v. A64, p. 147–155.
Ryder, P.F., 1989, Caves in County Waterford, October 1988: Irish Speleology,
v. 13, p. 45–50.
Sarbu, S.M., and Lascu, C., 1997, Condensation corrosion in Movile Cave,
Romania: Journal of Cave and Karst Studies, v. 59, no. 3, p. 99–102.
Smith, G.K., 1999, Foul air in limestone caves and its effects on cavers, in
Australian Speleological Federation 22nd Biennial Conference.
Spötl, C., Fairchild, I.J., and Tooth, A.F., 2005, Cave air control on dripwater
geochemistry, Obir Caves (Austria): Implications for speleothem deposition
in dynamically ventilated caves: Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta,
v. 69, no. 10, p. 2451–2468.
Tarhule-Lips, R.F.A., and Ford, D.C., 1998, Condensation corrosion in caves
on Cayman Brac and Isla de Mona: Journal of Cave and Karst Studies, v.
60, no. 2, p. 84–95.
Troester, J.W., and White, W.B., 1984, Seasonal fluctuations in the carbon
dioxide partial pressure in a cave atmosphere: Water Resources Research,
v. 20, no. 1, p. 153–156.
White, W.B., 1988, Geomorphology and Hydrology of Karst Terrains: New
York, Oxford University Press.
White, W.B., and White, E.L., 2003, Gypsum wedging and cavern breakdown:
studies in the Mammoth Cave System, Kentucky: Journal of Cave and
Karst Studies, v. 65, no. 1, p. 43–52.