Spring-fed streams that deposit tufa (ambient temperature freshwater calcium carbonate deposits) in the tropics of northern Australia are influenced strongly by perennially warm water temperatures, high evaporation rates, and monsoon driven high-magnitude floods. This paper presents an environmental model that will aid interpretation of fossil fluvial tufas throughout monsoonal Australia. In the Barkly karst, northern Australia, tufas form in dam, cascade and pool/waterhole geomorphic environments. Each environment is represented in the morphostratigraphical record by a specific combination of tufa geomorphic units and facies associations. A diverse array of tufa facies is present, including microphytic, larval, calcite raft, macrophytic and allochthonous types. Preservation of particular Barkly karst tufa facies is thought to reflect the strength of monsoonal floods. A strong monsoon is represented by an abundance of flood indicators such as the allochthonous phytoclastic, lithoclastic and intraclastic tufa facies. Conversely, evidence of weak monsoons or a prolonged absence of floods may include oncoids, calcite rafts and thick accumulations of fine carbonate sediments. The history of the Australian monsoon is not fully understood. However, fossil tufa deposits, which record terrestrial climate information, have been preserved throughout northern Australia and hold great potential for reconstructing the region's climate history. Fossil tufa sequences at two Barkly karst sites have been interpreted using the new model. It can be applied to other Barkly karst fossil tufas as well as those in similar environments elsewhere in the world.
- environmental models
- monsoonal tropical Australia