The Isona tufa mound complex (ITMC), associated with artesian springs of the Areny-Montsec aquifer, Spanish Pyrenees, is a potential analog for water constructed landforms on Mars. We used Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR), trenching, sedimentological description of exposures, and radiocarbon and U-series dating methods for the geological characterization of the ITMC. Preliminary geomorphological mapping combined with sedimentological analyses permitted the recognition of the different facies and their spatial distribution. GPR surveys conducted next to an outcrop and a trench provided electromagnetic wave velocity in tufas (0.09 and 0.11 m ns-1) and determined the correspondence of the radar signatures with facies types. This was used to reconstruct the tufas internal structure and the depositional stages for two different contexts: (1) an upper unit representing the morpho-stratigraphic record of paleosprings - Tufa 1 - composed of relict tufa mounds older than 350 ka BP; and (2) a lower unit - Tufa 3 - associated with groundwater aquifer outlets (Basturs Lakes). The GPR data allowed depicting the signatures for the vent, pool, rimstone, palustrine, dam, cascade and slope facies. A relationship was inferred between the age of the tufas and the radar signature, in terms of relative amplitude and signal attenuation. Older dry tufas with advanced diagenesis and karstification are characterized by well-defined GPR reflectors and lower attenuation than younger tufas, associated with aquifer discharge and shallower water tables. U-series and radiocarbon ages obtained from the Basturs Lakes tufas indicate that these have been active since 106 ka BP during both cold and mild Marine Isotopic Stages (MIS). We hypothesize that tufas related to the deep-seated Areny-Montsec confined karst aquifer were insensitive to climate variations. Landforms reminiscent of the ITMC have been detected during the last decade on Mars. Since GPR will be part of the ExoMars Rover of the European Space Agency (ESA) mission projected for 2018, we anticipate that our results may be able to constrain the interpretation of landforms possibly related to water on Mars. © 2013 Elsevier B.V.
- Tufa mound