World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article


Article Id: WHEBN0000398833
Reproduction Date:

Title: Tufa  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Mono Lake, Tomb of the Scipios, List of show caves in Germany, Pyramid Lake (Nevada), Mono Lake Tufa State Natural Reserve
Collection: Limestone, Sedimentary Rocks, Tufa
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


Mono Lake's "South Tufa" area
Tufa columns at Mono Lake, California

Tufa is a variety of limestone, formed by the precipitation of carbonate minerals from ambient temperature water bodies. Geothermally heated hot springs sometimes produce similar (but less porous) carbonate deposits known as travertine. Tufa is sometimes referred to as (meteogene) travertine;[1] care must be taken when searching through literature to prevent confusion with hot spring (thermogene) travertine. Calcareous tufa should not be confused with tuff, a porous volcanic rock with parallel etymological origins that is sometimes called "tufa".


  • Classification and features 1
    • Fluvial deposits 1.1
    • Lacustrine deposits 1.2
    • Other deposits 1.3
      • Calcareous sinter 1.3.1
      • Speleothems 1.3.2
      • Tufa columns 1.3.3
  • Biology 2
  • Geochemistry 3
  • Occurrence 4
  • Uses 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8

Classification and features

Modern and fossil tufa deposits abound with wetland plants;[2] as such many tufa deposits are characterised by their large macrobiological component and are highly porous. Tufa forms either in fluvial channels or in lacustrine settings. Ford and Pedley (1996)[3] provide a review of tufa systems worldwide.

Barrage Tufa at Cwm Nash, South Wales

Fluvial deposits

Deposits can be classified by their depositional environment (or otherwise by vegetation or petrographically). Pedley (1990)[4] provides an extensive classification system, which includes the following classes of fluvial tufa:

  • Spring – Deposits form on emergence from a spring/seep. Morphology can vary from mineratrophic wetlands to spring aprons (see calcareous sinter)
  • Braided channel – Deposits form within a fluvial channel, dominated by oncoids (see oncolite)
  • Cascade – Deposits form at waterfalls, deposition is focussed here due to accelerated flow (see Geochemistry)
  • Barrage – Deposits form as a series of phytoherm barrages across a channel, which may grow up to several metres in height. Barrages often contain a significant detrital component, composed of organic material (leaf litter, branches etc.).

Lacustrine deposits

Tufa columns at Mono Lake

Lacustrine tufas are generally formed at the periphery of lakes and build up phytoherms (freshwater reefs) and stromatolites. Oncoids are also common in these environments.

Other deposits

While fluvial and lacustrine systems make up the bulk of tufa systems worldwide, there are several other important tufa environments.

Calcareous sinter

Although sometimes regarded as a distinct carbonate deposit, calcareous sinter formed from ambient temperature water can be considered a sub-type of tufa.


Calcareous speleothems may be regarded as a form of calcareous sinter. They lack any significant macrophyte component due to the absence of light, and for this reason they are often morphologically closer to travertine or calcareous sinter.

Tufa at Trona Pinnacles, California

Tufa columns

Tufa columns are an unusual form of tufa typically associated with

  • Mono Lake Committee: "Tufa"

External links

  1. ^ Pentecost, A. (2005). Travertine. Dordrecht, Netherlands: Kluwer Academic Publishers Group.  
  2. ^ Koban, C.G.; Schweigert, G. (1993). "Microbial origin of travertine fabrics - two examples from Southern Germany (Pleistocene Stuttgart travertines and Miocene riedöschingen Travertine).". Facies 29: 251–263.  
  3. ^ a b Ford, T.D.; Pedley, H.M. (1996). "A review of tufa and travertine deposits of the world". Earth-Science Reviews 41 (3–4): 117–175.  
  4. ^ Pedley, H.M. (1990). "Classification and environmental models of cool freshwater tufas". Sedimentary Geology 68: 143–154.  
  5. ^ Buchardt, B.; Israelson, C.; Seaman, P.; Stockmann, G. (2001). "Ikaite tufa towers in ikka fjord, southwest Greenland: their formation by mixing of seawater and alkaline spring water". Journal of Sedimentary Research 71 (1): 176–189.  
  6. ^ Bialkowski, S.E. 2004. "Use of Acid Distributions in Solubility Problems". 
  7. ^ Zhang, D.; Zhang, Y; Zhu, A.; Cheng, X (2001). "Physical mechanisms of river waterfall tufa (travertine) formation". Journal of Sedimentary Research 71 (1): 205–216.  
  8. ^ Riding, R. (2000). "Microbial carbonates: the geological record of calcified bacterial-algal mats and biofilms". Sedimentology 47: 179–214.  
  9. ^ Pedley, M.; Rogerson, M.; Middleton, R. (2009). "Freshwater calcite precipitates from in vitro mesocosm flume experiments: a case for biomediation of tufas". Sedimentology 56 (2): 511–527.  
  10. ^ Forster, A.; Forster, S.C. (1996). "Troglodyte dwellings of the Loire Valley, France". Quarterly Journal of Engineering Geology and Hydrogeology 29 (3): 193–197.  
  11. ^ "Au Turonien". Une histoire de la Touraine à travers ses roches (in French). Retrieved 2010-10-01. 


See also

Tufa is today occasionally shaped into a planter. Its porous consistency makes tufa ideal for alpine gardens. A concrete mixture called hypertufa is used for similar purposes.


Some sources suggest that "tufa" was used as the primary building material for most of the châteaux of the Loire Valley, France. This results from a mis-translation of the terms "tuffeau jaune" and "tuffeau blanc", which are porous varieties of the Late Cretaceous marine limestone known as chalk.[10][11]

Tufa is common in many parts of the world. Some notable deposits include:


Calcite is the dominant mineral precipitate found; however, the polymorph aragonite is also found.

Recently it has been demonstrated that microbially induced precipitation may be more important than physico-chemical precipitation. Pedley et al. (2009)[9] showed with flume experiments that precipitation does not occur unless a biofilm is present, despite supersaturation.

Modern tufa is formed from alkaline waters, supersaturated with calcite. On emergence, waters degas CO2 due to the lower atmospheric pCO2 (see partial pressure), resulting in an increase in pH. Since carbonate solubility decreases with increased pH,[6] precipitation is induced. Supersaturation may be enhanced by factors leading to a reduction in pCO2, for example increased air-water interactions at waterfalls may be important,[7] as may photosynthesis.[8]


Timothy O'Sullivan, The Pyramid and Domes, Pyramid Lake, Nevada, 1867

Tufa deposits form an important habitat for a diverse flora. Bryophytes (non-vascular land plants) and diatoms are well represented. The porosity of the deposits creates a wet habitat ideal for these plants.


[5] precipitated when carbonate rich source waters emerge into alkaline soda lakes. They have also been found in marine settings.3. It is generally thought that such features form from CaCOtravertine Some tufa columns may actually form from hot-springs and therefore actually be a form of [3]

This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.