Here, we map a series of stalagmites from Asturias, Spain, by laser ablation inductively-coupled-plasma mass spectrometry and confocal laser scanning (fluorescence) microscopy and discuss the origins of trace element and fluorescence variations. Seasonal banding is evident with both methods and may be attributed to lignins/humic acids based on fluorescence absorption and emission characteristics.
Some lateral variations in fluorescence present as saw-tooth “spires” and demonstrate disruptions of seasonal banding, corroborated by trace element variations (most prominently Mg and Na). Such features likely reflect the differential partitioning of trace elements by sectoral zoning as a result of low supersaturation and/or high organic matter load, combined with the effects of dissolved organic matter on the calcite growth surface and the association of each element with colloidal organic matter. The lateral variability of trace elements demonstrates the pitfalls of obtaining trace element information from one-dimensional transects without prior reconnaissance mapping. It is, however, possible that traditional drilling with ~1 mm holes homogenizes these features and provides reliable trace element estimates.