Hot-spring travertine facies and sequences, Late Pleistocene, Rapolano Terme, Italy



Late Pleistocene travertines up to 40 m thick near Rapolano Terme in Tuscany, central Italy, were precipitated by hot water issuing from springs on hillsides and flowing into adjacent depressions to mix with rainwater. Proximal light-coloured slope and terrace travertines pass distally into darker reed mound and depression-fill travertines. Lithotypes include crystalline crust, shrub, pisoid, paper-thin raft, coated bubble, reed, and lithoclast-breccia. High precipitation rates resulted in rapid slope aggradation and progradation. Dilution by rainwater likely lowered precipitation rates in depressions, but deposition was augmented by allochthonous material eroded from upslope travertines.

Slope Depositional Systems consist of Smooth and Terrace Slope facies characterized by white crystalline crusts, with diverse additional lithotypes in terrace pools. Depression Depositional Systems have mixed light and dark travertines with horizontal to gently concave stratification. Extensive light-coloured Shrub Flat travertine is dominant; darker Marsh-Pool Facies composed of fine lithoclast and reed travertine is localized. Reed Mounds composed of mixed light and dark travertines localized by abundant reed growth, formed where spring water emerged near the bases of low angle slopes.

Distal reduction in accretion rate was the major influence on sequence development. Light-coloured slope travertines interdigitate with darker depression deposits. Vertical aggradation of slope deposits, mound progradation, and filling of topographic depressions is expressed by advance and retreat of facies. Evolution from depression to slope or mound sequences is termed ‘steepening up’. Up-sequence change from slope or mound to depression facies is termed ‘levelling up’. Exposure surfaces associated with palaeosols are common in all facies and often constitute sequence boundaries. They are more closely spaced in depression sequences, reflecting slower and possibly also more discontinuous accumulation at sites furthest from hot springs.