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AuthorsD'Alessandro, W.* 
Brusca, L.* 
Cinti, D.* 
Gagliano, A.L.* 
Longo, M.* 
Pecoraino, G.* 
Pizzino, L.* 
Voltattorni, N.* 
TitleCarbon dioxide and radon measurements in the soils of Pantelleria island (southern Italy)
Issue Date1-Sep-2013
PublisherUniversity of Patras, Greece
KeywordsSoil gases
CO2 fluxes
222Rn activity
Subject Classification04. Solid Earth::04.08. Volcanology::04.08.01. Gases 
04. Solid Earth::04.08. Volcanology::04.08.06. Volcano monitoring 
AbstractPantelleria is an active volcanic complex, at present in quiescent status, hosting a high enthalpy geothermal system. Explorative geothermal wells tapped exploitable water-dominated reservoirs at 600-800 m depth with maximum measured temperatures of 250°C. Five field campaigns for soil gas measurements were made in the period from July 2005 to October 2006. CO2 flux was measured with the accumulation chamber method at 807 sites, CO2 concentration and Rn activity in soil atmosphere were measured at 50 cm depth at 728 and 358 sites, respectively. The first campaign covered the whole island (about 83 km2) with an approximately sample density of 3.5 points per km2 for CO2 (flux and concentration) measurements and of 1.6 points per km2 for Rn measurements. The distribution of the sampling points was as far as possible evenly distributed. Only few limited areas resulted uncovered due to accessibility problems (inhabited areas, airport, steep or rough topography). In the following four surveys nine areas were studied with greater detail with sample densities of up to 100 points per km2. Flux measurements for the whole surveys gave values in the range < 0.1 - 4700 gCO2 m-2 day-1 (Fig. 1). Organic contribution could not be distinguished with statistical methods and in the present study was considered negligible above 30 g m-2 day-1. The sites displaying flux values above this threshold, representing about 32% of the total population, are almost all located within the 50 ka old caldera. The highest values correspond to the areas of Favara Grande and of the lake Specchio di Venere (Fig. 1), which have long been recognized as sites of anomalous degassing with the presence of active fumarolic vents with temperatures of about 100 °C in the former and thermal springs with abundant bubbling gases and a mofette in the latter. A new anomalous degassing area with very high output values has been identified on the southern flank of Mt. Grande (MGS in Fig. 1). In this area the vegetation cover strongly contrasts with that of the neighboring areas, consisting of scrubby low growing plants, mosses and bare land. Indeed, high CO2 flux values are always measured as long as such vegetation cover is found, abruptly decreasing when higher growing plants are present. The contrast is particularly evident in springtime and can be used as a good marker to individuate anomalous degassing areas. Further areas were studied in detail being sites of fumarolic manifestations. All of them are also sites of anomalous CO2 fluxes although of limited areal extension. The area of the last subaerial volcanic activity (Mursia) was also studied but the measurements were all far below the anomaly threshold. The total CO2 output of the anomalous degassing areas was estimated through geostatistical methods considering only values above the anomaly threshold. Results evidence that most of the output (87%) of the island is due to 3 of the anomalous degassing areas (Lake, MGS and Favare), the first of which accounts for more than 50%. Summing up the contribution of all anomalous areas we obtained a total output of about 0.3 kg s-1 (26 t day-1) over an area of about 0.58 km2. Concentrations of CO2 ranged from 0.039 (atmospheric value) up to 95 % (Fig. 1). The distribution of the values on a probability plot evidenced two statistically distinct populations with an inflection point at about 0.8 %. The values below the threshold (65 % of the population) can be considered as derived from organic activity while those above of magmatic/geothermal origin. The spatial distribution of the sites with anomalous concentrations closely resembles those of anomalous CO2 fluxes. Radon222 activity in the soil ranged from < 0.1 to >1000 kBq m-3 (Fig. 1). The distribution of the values on a probability plot evidenced three statistically distinct populations with inflection points at 40 and 400 kBq m-3. The lower population (74% of the entire population) probably corresponds to close to equilibrium values in soils with different contents of parent isotopes of the 238U decay chain and could be considered as background population. The values of the other two populations have to be considered anomalous and their high activity values have to be related either to sustained fluxes of a carrier gas (CO2) or/and to enhanced release from the soil due to fumarolic alteration. These anomalous values generally correspond to elevated CO2 flux values and are found close to active or fossil fumarolic areas. The close relationship with fumarolic alteration is confirmed by the contrasting behavior of two of the areas displaying the highest CO2 flux values, namely Favare and Lake. In the former area the high soil temperatures, testifying for anomalous fluxes of hydrothermal fluids, are reflected in a high percentage of anomalous values of soil 222Rn activity. On the contrary at the lake area, where the highest CO2 fluxes are measured, soil temperatures are much lower and consequently also soil 222Rn activity. The only high soil 222Rn activity values are measured along the southern shores of the lake where seeps of thermal water with about 60 °C are present. At Mursia, where recent basaltic lavas and scorias crop out, soil 222Rn activity is particularly low due to the low content of parent radioactive elements in these rocks. Finally, the present study evidenced a few areas were the gas hazard due to both CO2 and radon is elevated with either acute or chronic health issues for humans. These are the western shores of the lake and the village of Rekale the only inhabited area close to an anomalous degassing area.
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